Department denies immigrant rights group's claims
GREENDALE - A Milwaukee woman who submitted a racial profiling complaint against the Greendale Police Department withdrew it after a police review that found no evidence of her claims.
Katherine Torres of Milwaukee filed a complaint with the department Friday, June 2, claiming she was racially profiled by a Greendale police officer in a routine traffic stop, for having no front license plate on her vehicle, on May 31.
Torres was cited for failure to fasten her seat belt.
In the original complaint, Torres claimed she believed that the police officer, identified as Sgt. Christopher Karczewski, pulled her over based on her appearance and asked for her immigration status and Social Security number.
According to Greendale police, the department investigated the traffic stop's audio and video footage (which was posted on the police department's Facebook page) and said that Karczewski did not question Torres about her citizenship.
A news release issued by the police department read: "In reviewing the audio and video recording captured on Sergeant Karczewski's in-squad video system, the allegation that Sergeant Karczewski questioned Ms. Torres about her citizenship is false. Sergeant Karczewski asked Ms. Torres for her contact information, insurance information and verified her address, consistent with proper procedure. He never questioned her citizenship or immigration status, as alleged by Ms. Torres."
Torres withdrew her complaint June 6.
In a witness statement, Torres stated she was withdrawing her complaint because she was shown Greendale's Social Security number policy, as well as the department's policy for punishing racial profiling.
She also mentioned the proof of the department's participation in the state's "Click It or Ticket" seat-belt initiative. Greendale police conducted 34 traffic stops and issued 35 citations during that period.
"All I wanted to make sure (was) I was not (profiled) for (being) Hispanic," Torres wrote in a statement. "The chief did show me that, (during) the same day, people from different cultures were pulled over. He did also explain how they were all asked for (Social Security numbers). I am glad we were able to sit down and discuss this matter."
Torres also wrote that she had "nothing against this officer, if he was doing his job and following the written policy."
"Again, this was just a misunderstanding of racial profiling, since this is a hard topic in (today’s) society," she stated.
Voice of Voces
During that one-week time span between the traffic stop and the withdrawal of her complaint, immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera also became involved on her behalf, though details of how the group became involved is not clear. (Torres was not available for comment and has not communicated directly with MySouthNow.com about the incident or complaint.)
Voces de la Frontera held a news conference with Torres on June 2, publicizing her filing the complaint.
Later, Executive Director Christine Neumann-Ortiz said that Greendale Chief of Police Robert Malasuk intimidated Torres into withdrawing her complaint.
However, Malasuk says that both the allegations of racial profiling and Neumann-Ortiz' claim that he coerced Torres into withdrawing her complaint are false.
"(Torres) called me, she made an appointment to come in and see me and she decided to withdraw, and there was no coercion," Malasuk said.
Voces de la Frontera called the video used in the investigation as "suspicious," citing a moment where the audio cuts out, as well as a missing span of several minutes when Karczewski returned to his car during the traffic stop.
"The video in no way disproves Ms. Torres' allegations that the police asked if she was a U.S. citizen, and it proves they asked her for her Social Security number," Voces de la Frontera said in a statement.
However, Malasuk said the missing minutes in the video were only of Karczewski in his car, and not interacting with Torres. The police chief also said that the video is redacted, meaning that certain clips containing personal information could not be shared. Certain members of the media watched the entire video at the Greendale Police Department o June 6, Malasuk said.
Malasuk also said he and his staff offered up a viewing of the entire video and a chance to talk with police to Neumann-Ortiz, and that she declined.
Neumann-Ortiz allegedly attempted to accompany Torres to a meeting with Malasuk on June 6, and said that "Chief Malasuk refused to allow me to accompany Ms. Torres into the meeting, and in front of me he told her that if she did not withdraw the complaint he would file criminal charges against her. He intimidated her."
Malasuk denied any sort of intimidation, but did say Neumann-Ortiz was in the police department's lobby when Torres met with him June 6.
"(Neumann-Ortiz) is not part of the issue, and I told Miss Torres 'If you want to come and talk to me, you're welcome to come and talk to me.' ... She chose to come and talk to me without Christine. That’s her decision," Malasuk said.
Police also say that Karczewski asking for Torres' Social Security number during the traffic stop was consistent with Greendale policy. The Greendale Municipal Court uses Social Security numbers to assist in the collection of unpaid forfeitures through the state's Tax Intercept Program.
"Ms. Torres wants nothing further to do with this situation," Malasuk said. "If there are other people pushing this issue for other agendas, she says she is not part of that."
Additionally, Malasuk said that Torres told police that the complaint was not her idea, and that she was brought to the Greendale Police Station and told by Neumann-Ortiz and Voces that she was gong file a complaint.
The traffic stop
The department also affirmed that the "Click It or Ticket" initiative was not slanted toward minorities, who are protected under department policies that strongly discourages racial profiling.
"These 35 citations were issued to motorists with a variety of ethnic backgrounds, primarily Caucasians," Greendale police said in a news release.
Karczewski reportedly stopped eight vehicles during that period, wrote eight citations and collected eight Social Security numbers from drivers with a variety of ethnic backgrounds, half of which were white.
The department's policy "does not condone, nor will it tolerate, race-based generalizations and acts, which include racial profiling, uttering racial epithets or having law enforcement officers making decisions based on any of these acts," the department said in the news release
"We have policy and procedure in place for this type of situation. ... The allegations (of racial profiling) are fictitious," Malasuk said.