Ed Of 300 Days
For better or worse, I will be shocked if Ed Flynn is still the Chief of Police in Milwaukee by the end of next summer.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that I personally think the Chief needs to go. The reality however is that police chiefs in large urban areas tend to have relatively short shelf lives. Often times, events overwhelm them - and the cumulative effect of those events bring them down.
As honeymoons go, Chief Flynn's lasted longer than most. For most of his first term, he enjoyed widespread support across broad sections of the community based on a perception that crime was going down on his watch. This support enabled the Chief to navigate through a personal scandal that would perhaps have ended the career of someone else.
The second term hasn't gone as smoothly however.
For whatever reason, the local newspaper has devoted an enormous amount of resources toward trying to bring the Chief down. This has resulted in a series of negative stories: some of which have merit, some of which strike me as having been trumped up in the extreme.
Then there's the recent string of missteps by the Department.
You have the death of Derek Williams in police custody which is now the subject of dual investigations by State and Federal authorities. While it seems to me that Chief Flynn is no more to blame for this than DA John Chisholm, the Medical Examiner or members of the Fire and Police Commission who looked at the videotape and saw nothing actionable, Flynn is the one taking the heat.
In addition to the Williams case, you have recent charges against officers for illegal strip searches. While Flynn called for the investigation that led to the charges, the conduct is alleged to have occurred over a long period of time. This raises the question of whether the Chief is in control.
You also have other controversies including whether police handled the investigation into the death of Darius Simmons appropriately.
A strong case can be made that none of the above reflects directly on the way Ed Flynn does his job. At full strength, the Milwaukee Police Department has over 2000 sworn officers and 700 civilian employees. In any organization that large, there will always be issues (especially in an organization that interacts with the public like a police department does).
Regardless, it now appears that some politicians, religious leaders and community activists are breaking bad on the Chief. Complaints come with the job - but the uproar doesn't appear to be dying down.
And when complaints reach a critical mass, it's often the Chief that takes the fall.
Ed Flynn will be the Chief of Police in Milwaukee for as long as he enjoys the support of Mayor Tom Barrett. That's the same Tom Barrett who has one eye on Washington should there be a second Obama term and the other eye on Common Council President Willie Hines (who rumor suggests is already measuring drapes for the Mayor's office).
Seriously, if you were Ed Flynn, would you want to plant your flag in the mound of lime Jello that is Tom Barrett and count on that flag being there after a storm?
I don't think Ed Flynn is going anywhere any time soon. My guess is that he'll hang around while the various criminal investigations in the Derek Williams case are completed. After that, for better or worse, I think Flynn will be encouraged to look for calmer (if not necessarily greener) pastures.
In other words, look for Chief Flynn to be around town for Christmas and Easter. Don't be surprised if there's a new Chief in town by next Fourth of July or Labor Day though.