Retiring Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on the Truth-O-Meter

Edward Flynn served 10 years as Milwaukee's police chief before announcing his retirement. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Edward Flynn served 10 years as Milwaukee's police chief before announcing his retirement. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Here’s a look at the Truth-O-Meter record of Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, who announced his retirement on Jan. 8, 2018 after serving 10 years in the post.

Among his more interesting claims: In Milwaukee County, juveniles arrested for car theft "get sent immediately home"; and in Wisconsin, a second arrest for pot is a felony, but a second arrest for a gun is a misdemeanor.

Flynn was police commissioner in Springfield, Mass., from 2006 to 2008. And he served as secretary of public safety under then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from January 2003 until taking the Springfield job.

July 2016: Milwaukee police use deadly force at a rate that is "among the lowest" in the country.

Our rating: Half True.

Flynn based his claim on the best data available, which showed Milwaukee police killed one person in 2015. But 2015 was the only full year for which data were available on a national level, leaving it unknown how Milwaukee’s rate would have compared in prior years.

August 2015: In Milwaukee County, juveniles arrested for car theft "get sent immediately home, because under the point system in juvenile court" on holding suspects, "a stolen car gets zero points."

Our rating: Mostly False.

It’s possible for a juvenile arrested on an auto theft-related charge to be released home until appearing in court, usually the next day, we found. It depends on the facts of the case and factors such as whether the juvenile can be supervised by a responsible adult. But under the point system, auto theft is worth 10 points, not zero, which typically would result in the juvenile being held in secure detention or at an alternative facility until appearing in court, depending on factors such as the juvenile having a prior record.

April 2015: In Wisconsin, a "second arrest for carrying pot is a felony," but a second or subsequent arrest "for carrying a gun illegally is a misdemeanor."

Our rating: Mostly True.

A second arrest for carrying marijuana is classified as a felony offense, although depending on the circumstances, only a ticket might be issued. And generally a first or subsequent offense for carrying a gun illegally is a misdemeanor -- although for some people, such as convicted felons, a first offense is a felony.

August 2014: In 2012, there were nearly 12.2 million arrests and only 410 "uses of deadly force" by police in the United States.

Our rating: Mostly True.

Flynn corectly quoted FBI statistics on arrests and justifiable homicides by law enforcement officers, although it appeared the 410 was an undercount of the number of people killed by police.

July 2014: The Milwaukee Police Department has seized nearly as many firearms this year as the much larger New York City Police Department.

Our rating: True.

At that point in 2014, New York had seized 1,350 guns and Milwaukee had seized 1,340.

March 2013: Research found that "over the course of the existence of the Brady Bill ban, the use of assault weapons in crimes decreased by two-thirds."

Our rating: Half True.

Flynn accurately quoted a 70 percent figure from an oft-cited study by a veteran researcher for the U.S. Department of Justice. The study mad no claim that the ban caused the apparent decline, but neither does Flynn. On the other hand, the study and its author offered numerous and serious cautions that made clear that the 70 percent figure -- while suggestive of a major drop -- is not a definitive figure. And the study made clear that not all weapons traced by authorities are, as Flynn’s statement implied, used "in crimes."

February 2012: 85 percent of Milwaukee shootings involve "people with extensive criminal records shooting other people with extensive criminal records."

Our rating: Half True.

The thrust of Flynn’s statement -- that the vast majority of shooting suspects and victims have a criminal history -- was accurate. But he made a specific statistical claim that wasn’t fully supported by the study he cited. And as compared with charges or convictions, prior arrests as a measure of a person’s criminal record is on the lower end of the scale.