MILWAUKEE — Three members of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) are being investigated for allegedly creating and using false COVID-19 vaccination records to attend out of state training.
The I-Team learned of the allegations in December when the Inspector General confirmed it was investigating.
“Three individuals will be disciplined,” Ronda Kohlheim, the Inspector General said.
Following the release of a statement from the Milwaukee Police Department on potential discipline, Kohlheim clarified her original comments to the I-Team.
"The Inspector General will likely recommend individuals involved should face discipline; however, because the investigation is ongoing, I am not at liberty to comment any further regarding the reason for my recommendation."
In addition, she said, "In the case of a Milwaukee Police Department or Milwaukee Fire Department member under investigation, it is at the discretion of the Chief of their respective departments to make the determination to follow the Inspector General's recommendation or that of their own."
Two months ago when the I-Team began its investigation, the Inspector General confirmed it was looking into the matter.
“My office is currently investigating allegations that a Milwaukee Police Lieutenant erroneously created two COVID Vaccination Record Cards for two members, a detective and officer, in order for them to attend a training provided by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).”
As of 2021, the Milwaukee Police Department had a directive in place regarding travel for vaccinated and unvaccinated members.
The first memo, dated March 8, 2021, Chief Jeffrey Norman stated, “Effective immediately, department members will be required to show proof that they received the appropriate dose(s) of the COVID-19 vaccine with their COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card for non-emergency work related travel and travel training requests.”
It continued, “Members who elect not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or do not receive the appropriate dose(s) of the COVID-19 vaccine will be considered for non-emergency work related travel on a case by case basis by the Executive Command Staff. Members who elect not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or do not receive the appropriate dose(s) of the COVID-19 vaccine will only be considered for travel training requests if the training is required to maintain national or state recognized certification in an area that directly relates to their current job responsibilities.”
The I-Team acquired documents showing the Lieutenant in question approved travel to a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Ga. for the detective and officer in question on May 21; more than two months after the internal Chief’s Directive. For both members, the Lieutenant wrote, “Member is in compliance with Chief’s directive.”
TMJ4 News is not naming the law enforcement individuals involved as the investigation is ongoing and no discipline or charges have been filed for their alleged actions.
While there is a stipulation allowing for unvaccinated members to attend trainings, FLETC provided a statement to the I-Team, saying, “All students who attend FLETC training programs must attest to their vaccination status at the time of registration. FLETC takes seriously all allegations of misconduct involving our staff, students and training programs. To ensure program integrity, our Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is available to assist state, local and tribal agencies with investigations involving their personnel at FLETC.”
The I-Team confirmed with MPD about an internal review of the incident. While MPD would not provide specific comments on the situation ahead of the airing of this story, it provided a statement saying, “The Milwaukee Police Department holds all of our members to the highest level of integrity. Any member that violates the code of conduct will be held accountable. This internal investigation remains under review.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 16 the Milwaukee Police Department issued a statement in response to this I-Team report. The statement in full is as follows:
"Recently, a television news station aired a story titled, "I-Team: 3 MPD officers to face discipline for creating fake COVID-19 vaccination cards." The news story asserts that three individuals “will be disciplined” for allegedly creating and using fraudulent COVID-19 vaccinations records to attend out of state training, citing the City of Milwaukee Inspector General as a source. Prior to the story airing and consistent with past practices, the Milwaukee Police Department did not make a comment as to the merits of the allegation because it was related to an open investigation. However, due to the nature of the reporting on this case and the seriousness of the allegation, it is important to clarify the record. This matter remains under an internal investigation, and at this time, no discipline has been presented to the Chief of Police for consideration.
The Milwaukee Police Department takes the allegation of creating a fake or fraudulent vaccination card very seriously. We also take all of our investigations extremely seriously and do not predetermine what, if any, discipline will be rendered until the investigation has been completed and due process has been followed."
All three members are working in their full capacity, until there is a conclusion to the investigation.
There have been other cases across the country of Law Enforcement members being suspended, resigning or losing their jobs for similar accusations of falsifying COVID-19 vaccination records.
While the matter is still under review, it is unclear what kind of discipline the members could face internally. However, it is possible it could go beyond the scope of discipline MPD or the Fire and Police Commission could file. The U.S. Attorney’s Office tells the I-Team, “creating a fake or fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card could violate a variety of federal laws. For example, it is a felony punishable up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 to fraudulently or wrongfully attach the seal of a department or agency of the United States (including the CDC) to any certificate or document or to use, buy, procure, sell, or transfer such a document with fraudulent or wrongful intent. The same penalties would apply if someone knowingly used or made a materially false document in connect with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits or services. In addition, it is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison for someone to produce fake or fraudulent identification documents purporting to have been issued by or under the authority of the United States government.”