As the nation grapples with the killing of George Floyd and the social fallout from the case, it is important to note that many black Americans are the fatal victims of criminals but their deaths get no major media attention and do not spark protests or riots.
This reality was driven home by then-Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on Nov. 6, 2014 when he chastised critics of his department for not giving a damn (his words) about the homicide victims in the community, 80% of whom are African American.
Flynn also blasted the media for asking about his perusal of his cell-phone during a meeting about a white policeman who had shot and killed a black man, claiming he was being insensitive. Flynn explained that he was following developments in a drive-by shooting where a young girl was shot while sitting in her father's lap.
As was filmed by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Ashley Luthern on that November evening, a reporter asked Flynn, “What’s your response to some of the people that thought you were being disrespectful by being on your phone and not being attentive?”
“Well, I was on my phone, and yes, that’s true," said Flynn. "I was following developments of a five-year-old little girl sitting in her dad’s lap who just got shot in the head by a drive-by shooting. If some of the people here gave a good g***amn about the victimization of the people in this community by crime, I’d take some of their invective more seriously."
Five-year-old Layleh Peterson was killed in that drive-by shooting.
Flynn continued, "The greatest racial disparity in the City of Milwaukee is getting shot and killed – hello? Eighty percent of my homicide victims every year are African American. Eighty percent of our aggravated assault victims are African American. Eighty percent of our shooting victims who survive their shooting are African American."
“Now, they [critics, media] know all about the last three people killed by the Milwaukee Police Department over the course of the last several years," he said. "But there’s not one of them that can name one of the last homicide victims we’ve had in this city."
"There’s room for everybody to participate in fixing this police department, and I’m not pretending we’re without sin," Flynn added. "But this community is at risk, all right, and it’s not because men and women in blue risk their lives protecting it. It’s at risk because we have large quantities of high capacity firearms in the hands of remorseless criminals who don’t care who they shoot."
"Now I’m leaving here to go to that [crime] scene, and I take it personally, okay," said Flynn. "We’re going up there and there's a bunch of cops processing a scene of a dead kid, and they're the ones who are going to be out there patrolling and stopping suspects that may have guns under the front seats."
"They're the ones that are going to take the risks to their lives to try to clean this thing up," he added.
“We’re responsible for the things we get wrong and we take action," Flynn continued. "We’ve arrested cops, we’ve fired cops, and so on. But, the fact is, the people [critics] out here, some of them who had the most to say are absolutely MIA when it comes to the true threats facing this community."
"It gets a little tiresome," he said. "And when you start getting yelled at for reading the updates of the kid that got shot, yeah, you take it personally. Now, no offense, but I’m going up there now.”
Before speaking with the reporters, Chief Flynn had attended a meeting of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to discuss his firing of a white police officer who had shot a black man 14 times during an altercation in a park.
Ed Flynn retired from the Milwaukee Police Department in 2018.