MILWAUKEE — With violent crimes skyrocketing in Milwaukee, a community advocate says his intervention and collaborating with Milwaukee Police prevented another statistic.
“I already know what’s finna happen,” Tory Lowe said. “I already know, someone finna die. I already know it.”
Lowe is a victim advocate who works with families of homicide victims, sexual assault victims and others. He was called by a connection in September near 29th and Wisconsin after police were called because of two neighbors fighting.
“I get a call and someone says, I’m having an issue,” Lowe said. “A woman pulled my son’s hair and threw hot cooking oil grease on me and the police are here and not doing nothing.”
The woman went on to tell Lowe, police were giving municipal citations to both women but not addressing it further. The woman called Lowe because she feared things would escalate and either her son, her or the woman who threw grease on her would get seriously hurt.
“You never know where a situation could lead,” The woman, who wished to remain unidentified said. “I was very grateful because, before Tory showed up, the police weren’t listening to us. They didn’t really care. They approached the situation and went back in their car. It was a normal day for them.”
Lowe is extremely well trusted in the community because of his history of helping victims. He was able to communicate the woman’s concerns to police so they could take further action to try and prevent something worse from happening.
“I said, can you at least knock on the door and tell the woman that, if you have to come back, you’re going to take her to jail?” Lowe said. “I said, give me that. If you can give me that, I can dissolve this. I needed them to go to the door to tell her something to create a wall between two neighbors living right across from each other.”
The officers obliged, but when they went to address the woman, she became irate, yelling obscenities and injured an officer when she slammed her door on his finger. She was subsequently arrested.
“If they did not go back that one time and listened to me for that one time and knock on that door and said that, somebody would have died that day,” Lowe said.
“Taking that step and actually listening, and if what you’re saying makes sense, then yes, we could have possibly avoided a more serious situation that my officers were investigating in the first place,” Capt. Steven Johnson with the Milwaukee Police Department said. “I think working together and collaborating with them, it resolved itself.”
Johnson says this kind of collaboration is something they want to model. Having the community trust police enough to share information will go a long way in lowering crime rates.
“We can't solve the crime problems by ourselves,” Johnson said. “We need help, the citizens need help. Working together, you’re not going to a commander who will say less working together. No. The more we can work together with our community, showing we not only care and the empathy side of this job, that’s something that has to be shown as well.”
“It’s nice to have people willing to step up,” Assistant Chief Jeffrey Norman said. “Showcasing what collaboration looks like.”
Norman says this could serve as a teaching moment for the department, to show how collaboration can prevent further issues. Norman says, building trust within the community is one of the most important goals in having successful collaboration.
“We’re trying to work towards the same solutions,” Norman said. “We’re very much open to feedback or information that’s going to help with having a positive direction and resolving.”
Lowe says this is a step forward. However, in order to create real change, more needs to be done to build back the trust.
“I will do them a favor by giving them the trust that I have and to say this is the right thing to do,” Lowe said. “I can’t do that unless we reimagine policing. They need to really include the community or have people qualified to deal with people inside the department. Policing in America needs to be reimagined and needs more community involvement. Especially, in Black communities.”
Milwaukee Police acknowledge, people may not always feel comfortable coming to them with information but, they are working on that by establishing more trust in the community. Thursday, for the second time in a month, Acting Chief Michael Brunson and the League of Martin, the Black Police Union in Milwaukee, met with local activists to discuss more on how they can improve relationships.