TODAY'S TMJ4 Exclusive

Flynn addresses strip search scandal, Derek Williams case in one-on-one interview

CREATED Oct. 10, 2012 - UPDATED: Oct. 11, 2012

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  • Carole Meekins reports Video by wtmj.com

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  • Carole Meekins reports Video by wtmj.com

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MILWAUKEE- Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn is talking in a one-on-one interview for the first time since his four of his officers were charged in an illegal strip search investigation.

It's been a tough week for Chief Flynn as he's still reeling from the strip search charges involving four of his officers.

TODAY'S TMJ4's Carole Meekins: "It has to be difficult for a man in your position to know that men on your own force actually committed these egregious acts.  How difficult is it for you personally?"

Chief Flynn: "Its painful.  It violates everything we stand for, it's unbridled power over helpless people.  It doesn't matter if they have criminal records, they are in our power and people will not believe in us if they do not believe that we obey the criminal law while enforcing the criminal law"

The chief must now figure out what may have been missed along the way.

"These officers were high performers and we have to question whether their performance insulated them from closer scrutiny," says Flynn.

The chief knows his department is under heavy scrutiny.  He welcomes the federal investigation into the controversial Derek Williams case, where video was released showing Williams struggling for oxygen shortly before he died in a squad car.

"Everyone in this police department wishes we had acted faster," says Flynn.  "I have to share something with you, police officers see a lot.  There is not a police officer I know who has not had someone hyperventilate in the backseat  of their car after a foot pursuit and putting the handcuffs on them after they committed a crime"

TODAY'S TMJ4's Carole Meekins: "And you do realize how hard it is for people to watch, they have not been exposed to what your officers have been exposed to on a day-to-day basis.  When he says 'Sir I can't breathe' and he's respectful to officers that makes just about everybody in the community very upset"

Chief Flynn: "Of course it does.  You here the officers say 'OK quit fooling around'.  They don't insult him, they don't believe what he's going through.  There is no margin for error: 200,000 arrests in five years, four in-custody deaths -- three drug-related and this one that's a medical crisis."

TODAY'S TMJ4's Carole Meekins: "There's no doubt that the Derek Williams tape is a horrifying thing to watch particularly when you know the outcome of it."

Chief Flynn: "They at no time treat him with disrespect, they just clearly don't believe him.  They were wrong, they didn't diagnose his acute medical distress, they just had another guy who had run from police who was out of breath -- it was a bad judgment."

Chief Flynn says they have put new procedures in place following Williams' death.

1. If a suspect says they cannot breathe, officers must call an ambulance
2. Police Academy recruits are being trained to look for warning signs that a chase caused a medical crisis. 
3. The Critical Incident Review Board will investigate what could have been done sooner or faster

TODAY'S TMJ4's Carole Meekins: "Many leaders in the black community just want you out.  What would you like to say to them?"

Chief Flynn: "There's really not much to say to them, I've become a thing rather than a person, I'm a symbol, and some sort of victory can be claimed if something happens to me.  I'm not trying to convince people to change their mind about me, what I'm trying to do is focus on doing my job to the best of my ability.  (Which is) continuing to produce a high-quality police department that has continuous impact on the lives and safety of our citizens."

Chief Flynn also notes the number of citizen complaints against MPD has declined every year for the past five years, and he's determined to make sure the department learns lessons from these recent controversies.