'Totally crosses the line': Milwaukee health inspectors to get police escorts following death threat

Posted at 10:28 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 23:28:28-05

MILWAUKEE — Police escorts will accompany Milwaukee health inspectors during COVID-19 safety compliance checks after the health department received a death threat, officials announced Tuesday.

Interim Milwaukee Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said the threat came through the complaint process on the city's website. Now she says her department is working with Milwaukee Police to figure out a plan going forward.

Milwaukee Police said it is investigating a threat to the Milwaukee Health Department.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the threat "totally crosses the line."

"No one can expect our employees, who are there to serve the public, to put themselves in harm’s way because someone has an axe to grind about wearing a mask or social distancing," Barrett said.

Jackson said this isn't the first time health inspectors have faced hostile behavior while doing their jobs.

"Throughout this process, our inspectors have been verbally abused, they have definitely had to have some very difficult conversations, and those conversations have not been happy," Jackson said.

"They have not been met with welcoming arms at different times. But again what I can say is our inspectors are very committed to the work that they are doing specific to this pandemic as well as other work in the health department."

TMJ4 News obtained emails sent to the Milwaukee Health Department through an open records request. The emails show how some people lashed out at the department for not opening some Milwaukee schools back in the fall.

One email read in part, "I'm not sure how you sleep at night, but I can promise this....correct this ridiculous mistake and you may get your first good night of sleep in decades."

Milwaukee isn't the only place health department workers are encountering this behavior. Leaders in Waukesha County said Tuesday contact tracers have spoken to some angry people, but the majority are cooperative.

"We’re just asking people to be respectful and help the process, because really we’re just trying to help our community get through this," said Ben Jones, the Waukesha County Health Officer.

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