MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn announced his retirement Monday, describing himself as a “change agent” over his decade-long tenure and saying it was time to focus on his family.
His retirement comes days before he was to have his annual evaluation and amid criticism from aldermen who wanted to change state law to be able to fire him and future chiefs.
Flynn said the timing of his retirement had nothing to do with his evaluation or his combative relationship with the aldermen. Instead, he noted that his 10th anniversary at the department was Sunday and he was proud of his achievements.
“It’s a good benchmark and it’s time. Time to say thank you. Time to say goodbye,” Flynn said as Mayor Tom Barrett stood beside him the police headquarters.
Flynn, 69, said he leaves the department with a declining crime rate, citing a drop in homicides from 142 in 2016 to 119 in 2017. Excessive force complaints against officers are down 25 percent since 2013, he said. And he said there were 2,941 robberies in 2017, which was 17 percent fewer that the 3,555 in 2007.
“I’m grateful that he made the decision 10 years ago to be part of our community,” Barrett said.
Flynn’s tenure was also marked by officer shootings that showed the tension between police and minorities in the city. Flynn steered the department through rioting that followed the 2016 shooting of a black man, Sylville Smith, by a black officer on the city’s north side. In 2014, a white officer shot and killed a mentally ill black man, Dontre Hamilton, in a city park. Flynn later fired the officer, Christopher Manney.
In 2015, the city paid $5 million to 74 people who accused a group of officers of illegal body cavity and strip searches. And the ACLU of Milwaukee has a pending lawsuit against the police department alleging stop-and-frisk searches targeting Latino and black residents. Flynn has denied those accusations, but he acknowledged on Monday that his time in office wasn’t without controversy.
“Certainly Milwaukee has been at the center of many of the social changes that we’re seeing right now — the enhanced scrutiny of the police,” he said. “Certainly we have had some conspicuous failures over the years where individual officers or small groups failed to adhere to our core values.”
Flynn said he will remain in his position until Feb. 16.
He said he’s been mulling retirement for some time. Asked about the recent tension with city aldermen, he said: “Quite honestly there were times I thought over the last year or so, ‘Gosh I could save them so much heartache if they only knew that all their troubles would soon be over.'”