When I Was a Kid in Sherman Park, There Were Problems With Police. Now It Feels Like a Police State.

When I was a kid living in the Milwaukee neighborhood of Sherman Park in the early 90s, things were different. 

The neighborhood was one of the most perse places in the city. My brother and I played with the lawyer’s kids across the street, and we swung on the swing of the photographer next door while he cleaned his classic Excalibur. The East Indian kids living opposite us were some of my best friends growing up. Their dad was a bank examiner and their mother was my brother’s English teacher. We hung out with the Latino family two doors down after their daughter Elizabeth’s Quinceanera. There were a few police officers’ families per block in the old neighborhood and a few judges and an alderman too. Most of them were Black. 

I have good memories of the people and that street. The community was perse and connected. But you could see it coming.  

Even when things seemed good, there were problems with the police. I distinctly remember my brother telling my mother and me about his friend who had gotten picked up and beaten by the cops. I asked him, “What did he do?” My brother simply said in his matter of fact way: “Nothing.” As a kid I wasn’t really aware of such things. Looking back, it’s all too clear.  

Milwaukee has always been block to block, Grant and Sherman being relatively stable and the surrounding streets a little less so and so on. Now when I drive through the neighborhood, that stability is there on one street and completely gone on another. Many big, formerly beautiful homes sit empty and foreclosed; the businesses up and down the major streets sit even emptier. Most of those police officers, lawyers, and alderman don’t live in Sherman Park anymore, and the industrial largess that sustained so many in the city’s manufacturing heyday is long gone. 


“Wouldn’t you stop a Black guy standing at a bus stop at six in the morning?” the officer said. I hung up in disgust.

Sherman Park was the epitome of a stable, largely Black neighborhood. Now it has been turned into something resembling a police state. The neighborhood is pided between the 3rd and 7th Police Districts, which according to their own reports make the most stops and use the most force of any district in the city. As one local internal affairs officer told me over the phone a few years back when I complained about being profiled, “Wouldn’t you stop a Black guy standing at a bus stop at six in the morning?” I hung up in disgust.

The sight of families going on walks together in the summer has been replaced by multiple cop squads stopping grandmothers driving beat up minivans and teenagers getting their first cars torn apart and searched by police. The bowling alleys are gone. The Boys and Girls Club in Sherman Park now closes at 5pm — before most kids can get there. The ice cream trucks have been replaced by police in unmarked squad cars who the community calls “the jump out boys.” They rough up random kids, search them (often without permission), and jump back in and drive away as if nothing happened. I met a kid who gets stopped by the police multiple times every single week. He’s not an exception. Police harassment of young Black men in Milwaukee is the rule. 

Sylville Smith’s shooting death by police in Sherman Park has revealed to the world a larger crisis that has been growing in Milwaukee for the past 20 years. An out-of-control train about to hit the end of the line.

For the people who live in Sherman Park, it was always there. They’re livid that there seems to be no police accountability when Black men are shot down in the street under suspicious circumstances. They’re right to be angry, and they’re right to focus on and demand immediate transparency as well as accountability after due process has been satisfied. 

He’s not an exception. Police harassment of young Black men in Milwaukee is the rule. 

The specifics of Mr. Smith’s innocence or guilt aren’t the issue for this unfairly burdened community. They’ve been alienated and abused for years by the police who were supposed to be there to protect them. Mr. Smith’s shooting death shines a light on the broken trust between the police and the community, a trust that was broken by police over time with disregard, disrespect, and use of excessive force. 

What’s happening in Milwaukee today is what happens when civil liberties are slowly choked to death in full view of state and local governments that have rejected transparency and public oversight. The only wonder is that it didn’t happen sooner. Now that it’s come to a head, we must demand the changes in policing that will rebuild some semblance of the public trust and protect the people of city. 

The park I grew up having barbecues and playing baseball games in is at this very moment surrounded by barricades and armored vehicles. The children who live in Sherman Park today deserve a childhood free from police harassment and excessive force. When they become adults and elders they deserve the same freedom. To give them that, to give the whole community that, we need to demand an end to racially biased, unjust, and unaccountable policing in our city. We saw it coming. Once it came, it never left. 

The motto of Milwaukee Police is “Be a force.” The question is, “For what?” Let’s put a stop to police harassment and brutality once and for all.

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Mary Tandberg

Jarrett, I raised my daughters in Sherman Park. I chose the neighborhood for very specific reasons. 27 years ago, Sherman Park was very diverse, there were many Hassidic Jewish families living there (their mode of transportation from sundown Friday to Sunday was walking. I remember enjoying Saturday's when all the families were out walking no matter what the weather. I have one daughter who is biracial, this also strongly influenced my choice of neighborhoods. We always felt comfortable in Sherman Park. I relocated to South Carolina and miss Milwaukee a lot, but truly miss the Sherman Park you and my daughters grew up in...this issue is much bigger than the shooting last week (murder, actually). There must be a change in the philosophy of both the Sheriff and Police Dept, training, delivery methods, neighborhood police presence, racial profiling... The list goes on and on....

Grace Sherer

i recently attended a Peace March sponsored by The Frank Zeidler Center and Hephathe Church. the Zeidler representatives talked about listening circles between residents and police that have taken place in various Milwaukee neighborhoods. They conduct listening circles that have a very specific structure that fosters real active listening. I am wondering if this group has been approached for the Sherman Park neighborhood. I am aware that there are many other neighborhood needs, but this is the issue addressed in this article.

Juggling For A Cure

Jarrett English's challenges with police is not uncommon for African Americans. Interactions between Black Americans and law enforcement are impacted by broad sociological factors. Many are focusing on police, but the crux of the crises is with society.

An exemplar was many Americans displaying adoration for George Zimmerman. The disregard for the humanity of Trayvon Martin highlighted the dilemma we are confronted with.

Police are a reflection of the greater society. A society that exhibits a lack of value for the sanctity of African Americans’ lives. Consequently, we cannot remedy the issues with police without first resolving the problems within society.

Jean Daniel

I am 72 years of age and the police have been harassing and killing Black people for years, only difference is the phone cameras and even that haven't stopped the police from shooting our people. Now they threatening the people with the camera. If we are waiting on the white man God to save us, it's not going to happen.

Anonymous

Jarrett, I would like to say that much of what you have said about the police and their tactics are true. These tactics contribute highly to the mistrust and anger in this neighborhood. I met quite a few of the police officers from District Three, from front-line officers to the District Captain.

I would like to say though that much of what Sherman Park was 20 years ago is not what Sherman Park is today. As you stated, many of the local businesses and industrial industries are no longer there in business. I used to work as a security manager at one of the remaining businesses and from the roof you could look down the railroad tracks from Menomonie Valley south to as far as the eye could see north and I'd estimate that 8 out of 10 businesses were closed. These well-paying jobs which supported the families who lived in this neighborhood. Speaking with a former resident that had worked for this business for over 40 years, he said that many of the people that worked in the area simply walked to work, many times across the street from these companies. Often times these companies moved outside the area to the suburbs, making it difficult, to nearly impossible for residents to get to these new locations. This lead to many people moving, which lead to homes being sold. Many of these homes were bought by absentee landlords. Now the neighborhood has major issues with slumlords and transient renters. The homes are not taken care of by the landlords and every two or three months you would see new renters moving out of the apartments they had just moved into a few months earlier. There are no roots or attachment to the neighborhood.

To say that crime is rampant is an understatement. Carjackings, prostitution, daytime drug dealing in plain site, abandoned homes broken into to steal the copper and anything with value. My assistant and I looked up the crime statistics one day a few years ago and there were 12 murders within an eight block radius. Hearing gunfire during the day was nearly a daily occurrence. Let me say that again, during the day. At night it *was* a daily occurrence. We had a clear view of the neighborhood for two blocks and saw obvious drug dealing activity. We knew which houses were "the trap". When one was shut down, another would pop up within a week or so.

I went to the monthly meetings of the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association. Those homeowners in the neighborhood were constantly and frustratingly begging the police to do something! Often, other than the police and DAs, I was the only caucasian. There were all proud, hard working black homeowners that were frustrated (And more than a bit afraid) of all the drug dealing and violence happening around them.

The Sherman Park of 20 years ago from the stories I heard does not come close to the Sherman Park of today. You cannot blame all the residents for the current state of affairs. But you certainly cannot blame the police for everything. I've driven past too many of the middle of the block memorials of the residents which were murdered, not killed, murdered by their own neighbors. Sometimes it was drug related, sometimes it was domestic violence, and sometimes there did not seem to be a reason other than one party was disrespected by the other. Those were murders that no one protested.

In this case, it was a police officer (Who was a black police officer no less) who shot this young man who aimed a semi-automatic pistol at him that had 34 bullets. I don't know if you can call that police officer a murderer? Can you? If so, I'd really like a clear and concise explanation?

Mary Maruszewski

We raised our family in Sherman Park, (1978-1994) specifically for the diversity, great neighborhood feel, and stores in walking distance. I remember when Clinton/Gore were running and came to speak at Washington High School. It was the neighborhood joke that that's what it took to get our streets well plowed.
Pretty soon you couldn't get a pizza delivered. These were the racist perceptions of people who never lived there, never experienced the community. The city was turning its back on Sherman Park way back then.

Anonymous

How about stop killing and robbing in the park? Then maybe the police would back off.

Anonymous

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the brain initiative are the worst scams ever perpetrated on the American people. Former U. S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Warns: Biochips Hazardous to Your Health: Warning, biochips may cause behavioral changes and high suicide rates. State Attorney Generals are to revoke the licenses of doctors and dentists that implant chips in patients. Chip used illegally for GPS, tracking, organized crime, communication and torture. Virginia state police have been implanting citizens without their knowledge and consent for years and they are dying! Check out William and Mary’s site to see the torture enabled by the biochip and the Active Denial System. See Terrorism and Mental Health by Amin Gadit or A Note on Uberveillance by MG & Katina Michael or Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer or Mind Control, Microchip Implants and Cybernetics. Check out the audio spotlight by Holosonics. The truth is the biochip works like a sim card. It received pulsed modulated laser beams and millimeter wave which it converts into electromagnetic waves that your brain interprets into digital images and sound. It then takes what your brain sees and hears and converts electromagnetic waves into digital and acoustic waves that a computer translates into audio and video. In other words, it allows law enforcement to see what you see, hear what you hear and communicate directly with your brain.

“Former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director and now Google Executive, Regina E. Dugan, has unveiled a super small, ingestible microchip that we can all be expected to swallow by 2017. “A means of authentication,” she calls it, also called an electronic tattoo, which
takes NSA spying to whole new levels. She talks of the ‘mechanical mismatch problem between machines and humans,’ and specifically targets 10 – 20 year olds in her rant about the wonderful qualities of this new technology that can stretch in the human body and still be functional. Hailed as a ‘critical shift for research and medicine,’ these biochips would not only allow full access to insurance companies and government agencies to our pharmaceutical med-taking compliancy (or lack thereof), but also a host of other aspects of our lives which are truly none of their business, and certainly an extension of the removal of our freedoms and rights.” Google News

The ARRA authorizes payments to the states in an effort to encourage Medicaid Providers to adopt and use “certified EHR technology” aka biochips. ARRA will match Medicaid $5 for every $1 a state provides. Hospitals are paid $2 million to create “crisis stabilization wards” (Gitmo’s) where state police torture people – even unto death. They stopped my heart 90 times in 6 hours. Virginia Beach EMT’s were called to the scene. Mary E. Schloendorff, v. The Society of New York Hospital 105 N. E. 92, 93 (N. Y. 1914) Justice Cardozo states, “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent, commits an assault, for which he is liable in damages. (Pratt v Davis, 224 Ill. 300; Mohr v Williams, 95 Minn. 261.) This case precedent requires police to falsely arrest you or kidnap you and call you a mental health patient in order to force the implant on you. You can also be forced to have a biochip if you have an infectious disease – like Eboli or Aids.

Coalition of Justice vs the City of Hampton, VA settled a case out of court for $500,000 and removal of the biochip. Torture is punishable by $1,000 per day up to $2 million; Medical battery is worth $2.05 million. They told my family it was the brain initiative. I checked with the oversight board, and it is not! Mark Warner told me it was research with the Active Denial System by the College of William and Mary, the USAF, and state and local law enforcement. It is called IBEX and it is excruciating. I have had 3 surgeries at the site of the implant and need another. It causes cancer! I've been tortured for 8 years by Virginia law enforcement. Thousands of innocent Virginians are being tortured and murdered by criminal cops. Please help us get the word out to end these heinous atrocities. The pain is 24/7. The VA DCJS sent me a letter stating cops can get keys to anyone's home and steal anything they please. The governor knows and takes his cut. Senator Kaine said the FBI is not involved so he can't help. Check out Virginia's Casual Disregard for the Constitution at forbes dot com. Check out Richard Cain's case. They are torturing infants and children. The active denial system comes in rifle form and can murder without leaving a mark. I have had two heart attacks and am blessed to be alive. We need to make the nation aware to stop these thugs. Now a Dr. Whaley of the Medical Examiner’s office reports covering up murders by cops and selling brains for $6250 each to the NIH. Beware of Riverside and Sentara Hospital. Beware of Dr. Lawrence Chang, Pariser Dermatology, Dr. Nicole Nelson and Riverside Emergency Room Phsyicians, and Dr. Denis Cruff and Hampton Sentara Surgeons and Tidewater Multi-specialty Group and Dr. Elizabeth Cooper. Most of all, beware of state and local police in Virginia. Please help us.

John K

I grew up at 35th and Hampton until I joined the Navy 45 years ago and moved elsewhere afterward. Then neighborhood I grew up in was a neat and clean area with proud homeowners that took care of their homes and their neighborhood. I recently returned to tour the old neighborhood and was appalled by the shameful appearance of the whole area. Homes were visibly deteriorated, lawns were poorly cared for if at all, (apparently no one local owns their homes anymore, it's all absentee owners) and the majority of the locally owned businesses were closed and deserted and in shabby conditions. I was truly disappointed in the appearance of the whole area. Tom Wolfe was right, you can never go home again.

Z Malouf

I grew up at 35th and Hampton until I joined the Navy 45 years ago and moved elsewhere afterward. Then neighborhood I grew up in was a neat and clean area with proud homeowners that took care of their homes and their neighborhood. I recently returned to tour the old neighborhood and was appalled by the shameful appearance of the whole area. Homes were visibly deteriorated, lawns were poorly cared for if at all, (apparently no one local owns their homes anymore, it's all absentee owners) and the majority of the locally owned businesses were closed and deserted and in shabby conditions. I was truly disappointed in the appearance of the whole area. Tom Wolfe was right, you can never go home again.
Yep, totally agree with that...
Z Malouf

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