MILWAUKEE — As a community questions how the Milwaukee Police Department responds to calls involving children in minority neighborhoods, police leadership tries to set the record straight. It comes after a night turned violent earlier in the week over concerns of two missing teenagers.
Selcy Perkins gets emotional, thinking about her daughter roaming the streets of Milwaukee away from home. The 13-year-old was missing for more than three days, along with her teenage cousin.
“I’m just glad she was found,” Perkins said. “If your kids are out here missing, the Milwaukee Police Department is only going to put them in a computer as missing.”
Concerns about the girls' whereabouts, led to chaos erupting Tuesday night near 40th and Lloyd. It ended with a home burned down, multiple people shot and several first responders injured. Police said a group of people reacted to a rumor about the house being used for sex trafficking, thinking the girls could have been victims. Police haven’t found any evidence proving this.
- 'Information not corroborated': Police say false rumors led to 40th & Lloyd arson
- Missing teen girls were never at home believed to be connected to sex trafficking, police say
- House believed to be connected to crime burned, two shot
Perkins said her daughter has told her little about where she went, but did mention police passed her more than 10 times while she was out and even talked to her.
“Never once acknowledging who are you, what is your name, with the same clothes that I reported my daughter missing in,” Perkins said.
She and others feel it highlights a greater problem.
Yolanda Davis is related to both of the missing girls.
“Because they’re black kids out here missing, y'all don’t take the time to sit up there and look for our children,” Davis said.
Assistant Police Chief Regina Howard rejects this claim, as a parent and African American herself.
“I am here to say that the Milwaukee Police Department does not respond to calls for service by race, that is absurd and it is ridiculous,” Howard said.
Howard said this perception upsets her, along with allegations that they respond to black neighborhoods slower than others.
“To drag our feet on something like that would mean that we would put our own children at risk and that’s not something that any of us is willing to do,” Howard said.
Acting Assistant Chief Paul Formolo said they take any case involving children seriously and prioritize cases based on the information they have.
“We will act upon facts. We can take police action on that. It’s difficult for us to take police action on rumors,” Formolo said.
Police also said many times children who are missing have gone missing before. Perkins said her daughter hadn’t.