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Two officers caught in body cam beating have 45 complaints combined

Posted at 10:21 PM, Sep 09, 2020

MILWAUKEE — The two Milwaukee Police officers caught on body camera video punching and threatening a homeless man have long records with the department's internal affairs division, records show.

Officers Eric Ratzmann and his partner Eric Fjeld had a combined 45 complaints go before internal affairs from their dates of hire to the end of 2019.

The attorney for one of those complaintants said she was not surprised by the volume of complaints against two officers

Robin Shellow said MPD creates more problems by not rooting out bad officers sooner.

"No one cares until someone discharges a weapon or there's someone with a cell phone video who has the presence of mind to give it to someone in the press," Shellow said.

The most high-profile complaint against Eric Ratzmann included a very high profile car and was caught on video.

On April 12, 2012 Ratzmann pulled over a black Lamborghini seen driving erratically through a Water Street parking lot.

Ratzmann took the driver to the ground and struck him repeatedly in the back of the neck.

Shellow was on the legal team that went after Ratzmann for excessive force, a case she lost.

In the course of a years-long fight, she learned a lot about Officer Ratzmann, listed on MPD records as 6' 5" and weighing 308 pounds.

"Big. Weight lifter. Brags about it. Still brags about it. No question about it. He uses brute force," Shellow said.

Ratzmann's personnel file mentions his charitable work with the homeless.

In 2014, TMJ4 News followed along while he rounded up warm clothes.

But records provided to the I-TEAM show Ratzmann was also a frequent target of internal affairs, 19 times between his hire in 2004 and 2019.

On eight occasions, charges against him were "sustained" or found credible.

Including in 2017 for "failure to treat the public with courtesy" and "failure to activate his body worn camera."

Those violations landed Ratzmann a 33 day suspension.

It's a lesson Shellow says didn't stick because MPD let him spread it out over six months.

"It has a lot less punitive feel for a police officer that they're being punished for something serious when the punishment is not immediate, it's spread out over six months and he can take his days over long," she said.

Officer Eric Fjeld had no, single high-profile problem, but he had his share.

Between his hire in 2002 and 2019 Fjeld wound up at internal affairs 26 times.

Six times the charge was sustained.

Sustained or not, then-Police Chief Alfonso Morales said at their records were a problem.

"Their record is larger than most that come across our table on Tuesdays. And their record shows a pattern, regardless of it being founded or not sustained," Morales said.

Attorney Robin Shellow said that concern comes way too late and allows troubled officers to stay on the job for too long.

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