Milwaukee is a city with an out of control crime problem. Things are so bad, reporters from the local newspaper need no longer venture from their building to cover the violent crime beat. Last month, a man was shot — in broad daylight — as he washed the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s State Street windows. The Milwaukee Bucks’ new $524 million arena was clearly visible from an office window shattered by gunfire.
On Mayor Tom Barrett’s watch, Milwaukee’s violent crime epidemic has drawn international attention. On Tuesday, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released Murder in Milwaukee, an hour-long documentary.
As he traversed Milwaukee’s mean streets, BBC journalist Louis Theroux did an outstanding job spotlighting the root causes of violence, such as poor, single women giving birth to children from different men, beginning at age thirteen; fathers that are little more than biological donors; an inner city culture that does not value education; and individuals in need of a moral compass.
In one chilling scene, Theroux visits a cluster of gang members operating an apparent drug spot. “I like the street life,” said a man, out on bail for a gun offense. “I like the fast money.”
Fathers played no role in the lives of the half-dozen gang members interviewed. “I’ve never seen my daddy,” a convicted felon explains. “I’ve never seen a picture, never met him.” Another gang member pointed to the street and said, “My daddy right here. You don’t see nothin’, right. He’s not around.” Yet another explained his role model was Tupac Shakur, a gangsta rapper killed in 1996.
Noticeably present in Murder in Milwaukee: a community activist unafraid to brandish a shotgun to protect her home and children, crime victims and their families, story after story of dysfunctional families, and at-risk lifestyles. Several members of the Milwaukee Police Department are also featured risking their lives trying to right the listing ship that is inner city violence.
Noticeably absent in the BBC documentary — NFL players.
Protesting NFL players are certainly willing to talk the talk concerning societal “injustices,” but few, it seems, have walked the walk by opening businesses and investing in Milwaukee’s central city. Instead of taking a knee or bashing the police by wearing socks depicting pigs in police uniforms, NFL players could use their influence to mitigate gang disputes, and address the aforementioned social issues contributing to urban dysfunction.
Just as troubling is the apparent media blackout of Murder in Milwaukee. One would think the BBC portraying Wisconsin’s largest city as one of the most violent in the nation would be newsworthy. Although I’ve sent the link to the documentary to a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and to the social media accounts of news stations, as of this writing not a single Milwaukee media outlet has discussed the film.
Though Murder in Milwaukee debunks the ‘police are the problem’ narrative routinely promulgated by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one would think even a biased media outlet would view this accomplished report in its totality, and then let the public know how others from around the world see Milwaukee.
Steve Spingola is a retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective, author, and a cold case investigator.