NewsLocal News


I-TEAM: IG recommends 3 cops be fired, possible criminal charges for faking vaccination records

MPD Fake Vax Card
Posted at 5:08 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 12:30:30-04

A new report is recommending three Milwaukee Police members be fired and possibly face criminal charges for faking vaccination statuses to attend out of state training.

The Inspector General for the City of Milwaukee, Ronda Kohlheim, released the 16 page report Monday. It showed disciplinary recommendations for Lt. Branko Stojsavljevic, Detective Lori Rom and Officer Natalie Cruz. For all three, Kohlheim’s recommendation reads:

“Management should consider disciplinary actions up to and including discharge from the Fusion Center and/or the department altogether. Additionally, management should also consider whether [MPD Member’s] act of misconduct, in a public office, criminal charges are permissible under, updated 19-20 Wis. Stat. § 946.13.4, published and certified under § 35.18.”

The I-Team broke this story earlier this year, detailing how Stojsavljevic allegedly directed Rom and Cruz to submit that they are vaccinated for an application to attend a federal training session in June of 2021.

Kohlheim says Stojsavljevic, Rom and Cruz “committed an act of gross misconduct by knowingly and wrongfully certifying an untruthful statement to a federal government agency for the purpose of complying with a COVID-19 Vaccination requirement.”

According to the investigation, on May 19, 2021, Stojsavljevic texted the two women about their applications to attend an out of state training, stating “Natalie they said they have your application. Lori, please fill out yours. They just ask if you have been vaccinated. Say yes.”

After those text messages, Rom and Cruz submitted their requests and Stojsavljevic recommended they be approved.

Stojsavljevic told the Inspector General he did not remember telling Rom and Cruz to answer yes to the question about their vaccination status. The IG informed Stojsavljevic there was verifiable documentation showing he had done so. The report says Stojsavljevic said, if he did, it was a joke because they joke all the time.

The inspector general’s report shows there is no vaccination documentation on file for Rom or Cruz.

The two women attended a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia from June 6 to June 19, 2021. That training required its attendees to be vaccinated. The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) also requires its members to be vaccinated to attend out of state training unless an exception is granted.

Former Inspector Paul Formolo told the Inspector General he was willing to make an exception to the department policy to allow the two women to still attend the training, but was not aware of FLETC’s vaccination requirement but expects his command staff to know the training institution’s attendance requirements. Formolo also approved the two women to attend the training with no note on a vaccination exception.

According to the investigation, Rom raised concerns to Stojsavljevic about gaining access to the training if she had to prove her vaccination status with a physical card.

“I just want to double check that we don’t have to show documentation prior to arrival. How do we bypass that?” Rom said in an email.

Rom told the inspector general, Stojsavljevic responded verbally instead of through email. Rom told investigators that she felt compelled and forced to answer yes to the COVID-19 vaccination question for fear of being retaliated against for not following the directive of command staff.

Stojsavljevic was the subject of a different inspector general investigation last year for misconduct and conflict of interest. In the report, the inspector general recommended Stojsavljevic face discipline for retaliating against a fellow member. Despite the recommendation, Stojsavljevic’s record does not reflect he faced any repercussions for this investigation.

The Milwaukee Police Department declined an on camera interview for this story, but provided the following statement:

"The Milwaukee Police Department appreciates the diligence of our Inspector General and is in the process of reviewing her report. MPD takes all of our internal investigations extremely seriously and holds our members to the highest level of integrity. If a member violates the code of conduct they will be held accountable."

MPD will have the final say on whether Cruz or Rom will face discipline, however Stojsavljevic will likely avoid any discipline for a second time in a year. According to records acquired by the I-Team, Stojsavljevic applied for retirement in February, less than two weeks after the first story aired about the investigation. As a former member of the department, his record will reflect that he retired with an investigation pending, meaning the investigation for him essentially ends there. As such, he will be able to collect a monthly pension of $6,759.08, according to the City of Milwaukee Employees' Retirement System documents.

Stojsavljevic’s last day of work, according to CMERS, was May 15. The inspector general's report was released on May 16.

Stojsavljevic retirement application
Lt. Branko Stojsavljevic applied for retirement 13 days after the I-Team broke the story of the investigation he was at the center of. Despite the Inspector General's report, Stojsavljevic will collect nearly $7,000 per month and face no discipline since he retired before the report came out.

The leader of the FLETC training, George Breed, was interviewed by the inspector general for the report. Breed says Stojsavljevic texted him, “Did someone from my department bother you regarding the [Protective Service Operations Training Program] training and COVID?”

Breed replied, “No sir, not me, should they have?”

Stojsavljevic said, “No, just some bs. No worries. Thanks.”

The training cost roughly $7,000, which would be covered by Southeaster WI Threat Analysis Center (STAC) Operations grant funds. Kohlheim recommended a review of the requirements for the STAC grant for 2020-21 to learn if there were any amended, added or modified requirements for the grant as it relates to COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

“Management should consider the possibility of pursuing legal action for the misuse of the State of Wisconsin, Department of Military Affairs, Homeland Security government grant funds and/or to recover all monies associated with training (training, registration and lodging).”

To read the full report, see below:

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip