Editor’s note: The following is the full statement that Milwaukee County Board candidate (and Milwaukee Record contributor) Juan Miguel Martinez provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for its story published on March 14, “Bice: Milwaukee County Board candidate labels police officers ‘pigs’ and ‘racists,’ vows to cut sheriff’s office budget if elected.”

I have seen firsthand the dangers to individuals and communities when police are unchecked and operate without accountability. And I know that we can do better.

When I was 17 years old, I graduated from MPS’s Milwaukee High School of the Arts with the expectations of moving to Mexico, re-learning the language I had known since before I knew how to speak English and creating literature in my native tongue.

In Mexico City, nearly two decades ago, when i was 20, police officers operated with impunity and brutality. They were easily bribed, working not to uphold any veneer of justice, but out of self-interest, underpaid and angry at a system that had no interest in taking care of them. After I moved there, I read an article about a sting that indicted 13 police officers who were all moonlighting as killers for hire. The story claimed they only requested a “picture of the target, their work schedule, and 10,000 pesos.” I had been walking all over Mexico City as a tourist and frequently saw cops rousting and abusing people in a very violent manner, which always made me frightened.

One night, my friends and I were running late to a concert and the last subway of the night was leaving. My friend, frustrated, kicked the train. A police officer came out from behind the ticket office and grabbed him by the hair, pushing his head into the concrete wall and holding it there. My friends and I, as well as other bystanders, watched, though in 2005, few people had cameras on their cellphones. Although we were concerned, that violence was far too typical, and no passersby intervened. This was Mexico, where people were routinely murdered (or “disappeared”) by police with no repercussions or accountability. We knew that there would be no marches or national outrage for my friend if the situation escalated.

We then saw the officer reaching for his steel club. My friend Daniel slapped his hand away and all three of us pulled the officer off of our friend and ran off.

No person – child or adult – should ever be put in this position. To be faced with the choice between standing by while a friend is brutalized or taking action to prevent further harm is an unconscionable one. And although this incident didn’t result in my friend’s death, it easily could have. We don’t need to look far to find similar incidents – in Mexico City, across the United States, and even here in Milwaukee – where lives become hashtags and unheard calls for change.

I learned from this incident. I now know well the horrific effects of police who operate with anger and a lack of accountability, and I also know that our community deserves better. As a County Supervisor, I’ll work to keep law enforcement accountable, both through policy and the budget. Together, we can limit negative interactions between residents and law enforcement and to use those dollars to make our community a safer, better place to live.

Yes, I believe there are better ways to spend a portion of the budget for the sheriff’s department, such as reallocating for mutual aid resources. The sheriff’s department is mandated by the State of Wisconsin and tasked with specific, core duties; eliminating the sheriff’s department is not something that the Board has the capacity to do. I believe they should stick to their jurisdictions, which are the highways, courts and county jail.

My political identity revolves around worker’s rights and all residents of the district having a voice, no matter what their political affiliation may be.

The reality of capitalism is the fact that it only works for a small percentage of people who already hold the majority of the wealth in the country.

Whether it’s related to the harm caused by the GOP controlled state legislature, or anyone else who has open contempt for the residents of Milwaukee County, I will use my position as County Supervisor to fight for the people of the 12th district. I make no apologies for advocating for residents and their interests.

About The Author

Avatar photo

Juan Miguel Martinez is a writer from the south side of Milwaukee. He only writes until he can land a role as the mechanic friend of the handsome lead in a telenovela. His favorite movie is Repo Man.