Humanity. Trust. Communication. These are the core values of Assistant Chief Jeffrey Norman of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD). A 24-year veteran of the MPD, Norman formerly served as the Commander of Milwaukee’s District 3, served on the NWSP Board, and is now an Assistant Chief.
“Born, raised, and educated in Milwaukee”, Captain Norman has always called Milwaukee home, and it is a community he has eternally been committed to. Having been “raised by Milwaukee”, and continuing to live and work in the city, Captain Norman reveals that he has a “horse in the race” that brings a deeper meaning to the oath he swore to.
To hear Captain Norman speak about his background in Milwaukee, and what the city means to him click the links below.
This past week Captain Norman joined NWSP Executive Director Keith Stanley to chat about the current status of District 3, as well as the all too relevant topic of police-community relations.
Asked about his current assessment of District 3’s crime trends Captain Norman’s responded with the all too familiar refrain that, “2020 has been unprecedented”. With concerns over Covid-19, and mounting anger over video recordings of excessive force used by police officers, Districts across the city of Milwaukee as well as the nation are facing new and difficult challenges. As a result, the numbers for homicides and non-fatal shootings are higher than they have been in previous years.[JL1] Over the past two years District 3 had been enjoying a decline across the board in violent crime categories. 2020 however, has proved to be an entirely different animal.
Beginning the year with the unfortunate incident that occurred at Molson Coors, Norman was appreciative of NWSP for their role in the support and healing process. Norman was adamant to remind the audience that we are still a long way in healing from the current pandemic with the nation as whole continuing to see spikes. Nevertheless, Norman expressed to Keith that “excuses are never an option”.
To hear Captain Norman speak about the trends in District 3 and the nation as a whole click the link below.
Keith continued to ask Norman about other thoughts on the pandemic, and whether if he believed we will ever return to a sense of “normal”. “We are resilient” Norman emphatically replied, “we may have to recalibrate what that normal looks like”, whether this includes new practices such as mask mandates or becoming more sensitive to how we interact with others.
Switching the discussion from one relevant topic to another, Keith asked Norman to assess the current relationship between law enforcement officers and communities across the country. In particular through his unique lens as a high-ranking law enforcement official with numerous officers under his command. [JL1] Referencing an article that he wrote in the State Bar of Wisconsin, Norman revealed that he was frustrated and disappointed, but also optimistic.
Norman’s frustrations stem from the fact that he and his fellow officers are tired of seeing examples of those who do not know what it means to be a servant to the community; and therefore, their actions strain his relationships with his own community, especially people of color. “We have to be human in our interactions”, he states. Norman goes on to admit that some of the public’s faith in some law enforcement officers are low at the moment, and that they must own that narrative because of the reoccurring incidents not only across the county but also in our own communities here in Milwaukee. This relationship must be rebuilt with deposits of trust and an understanding of who the officers are working with, allowing them to be open and honest with their mistakes. This may lead to a watershed moment for law enforcement nationwide, as Norman alludes to, “we have to be more transparent about our failures and not try to spin it”.
To hear Captain Norman go more into detail about the current state of community-law enforcement relationships click the link below.
Norman is optimistic however that these frustrations will lead to productive conversations that will end with positive changes. Perhaps these changes involve active accountability from all sides, and the creation of avenues that allow for communication between both sides. When asked by Keith about what the community can do to repair this fractured relationship Norman’s response was straightforward, “Two-way street”. Norman illustrated that people’s perspectives are often times their realities. Communities are understandably frustrated as a result of these reoccurring incidents, and these sentiments are shared and discussed among community members; “but at what point are [law enforcement officials] going to be a part of that conversation?” Norman asks. And perhaps this is where relationship building comes in.
Norman also revealed that he constantly hammers in to his officers the notion that they need to build relationships in the communities that they serve. “It’s always good to be able to put a name to a face”, he says. Beyond that he conveys the importance of community members attending safety meetings and community meetings to air their grievances. It also builds intermediaries to be the bridge between law enforcement and those who may not feel comfortable talking with an officer 1 on 1. At this current time Norman feels that this is the greatest challenge facing communities and law enforcement. There is no constant feedback loop between the community and local officers. When there is a crisis, community meetings are filled with irate residents and other stakeholders; however, when the community is doing well these same meetings do not see the same amount of engagement.
Building off of this conversation, Keith asked the Captain what principles have guided him over the past 24 years when it comes to building relationships with the communities that he serves. “We cannot treat this like a job”, Norman responded passionately, “this is not a 9 to 5…people see that, and they are affected by your disingenuousness, you have to believe”. People are receptive to the passion that officers bring, and when they are, it is a beautiful thing. Norman has lived in Milwaukee all his life; he is passionate about his community and those who live in it. When he brings this passion to the workplace, and finds that it inspires him, sometimes he finds it astonishing to believe that he gets paid to do this. It is important he believes, that you bring your best face to this occupation as a public servant; and then to take it a step further and bring that face to a higher level to model for those around you.
To hear Captain Norman go more into detail about his values click the link below.
Near West Side Partners would like to thank Captain Norman for joining us and discussing this all to important topic that is gripping the country at the moment.
To watch the interview in its entirety click the link below.