Established in January of 2005, the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission (MHRC) is a central component to the City of Milwaukee's violence prevention efforts. Drawing on public health and criminal justice approaches, it was designed with the following goals in mind 1) to gain a better understanding of homicide through strategic problem analysis, 2) to develop innovative and effective responses and prevention strategies, and 3) to help focus available prevention and intervention resources. Under the auspices of the Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, former Milwaukee Police Chief Nannette Hegerty, and former Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann, the Commission was charged with tackling violence.
The MHRC Today
The Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission has become a critical forum for various stakeholders to work collaboratively to address violence in a comprehensive and sustainable way that balances short- term interventions with longer-term solutions. The MHRC is made up of criminal justice professionals, community service providers, public officials, and residents who meet regularly-through homicide review process - to exchange information regarding the city's homicides and near fatal shootings and to identify methods of prevention. Partners represent key stakeholders from multiple levels (city, regional, county, and state), disciplines, and agencies (governmental and private, including community service providers). At each homicide review meeting, partners participate in an intensive discussion and examination of individual homicide and intentional crime incidents. Through this process, trends, gaps, and deficits within the already existing systems and programs designed to prevent and reduce violence are identified and recommendations are made to strengthen these systems and programs.
The work of the MHRC is managed by 4 staff outlined in the About Us section. A collaborative between public health and law enforcement, the prevention work is accomplished through all the partners.
Prevention recommendations are developed throughout the various levels of review. In some cases the partners form a subcommittee to develop, refine and implement prevention recommendations. An example of this includes the License Premise subcommittee looking at the 105-91 ordinance (Revisions approved by the Common Council in late 2014). If the prevention recommendation follows the normal path to implementation, it will first go to the Working Group and then the Executive Committee. The Working Group is comprised of mid to Director level partners who vet the recommendations, identifying potential funding and partnerships that will ensure full implementation. Those recommendations that cannot be implemented at this level are presented to the Executive Committee. At this meeting, recommendations receive their final approval to implement. After the prevention recommendations are implemented, the MHRC monitors them for effectiveness and if need be revises the recommendation through the Working Group or subcommittees.
A partial list of members of the Executive Committee include:
- Mayor of Milwaukee
- Chief of Police
- Milwaukee County District Attorney
- Public Defender
- Commissioner of the Health Department
- US Attorney's Office
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
- Federal Bureau of Investigations
- US Marshals Service
- Department of Neighborhood Services
- City Attorney's Office
- Milwaukee County Executive
- Sheriff Department
- Attorney General
- Medical College of Wisconsin
- Safe & Sound
- Sojourner Family Peace
Snapshot of the Data:
- 2014 Homicide Total- 86 (decrease of 17% from 2013)
- 2014 Non-Fatal Shooting Incidents Total- 512 (increase of 8% from 2013)
- 2014 Non-Fatal Shooting Victims Total- 584 (increase of 10% from 2013)
- Firearms were the primary weapon used in almost 95% of homicide cases in 2014.
- In 2014, a total of 86% of the homicide victims had previous criminal history compared to 99% of the homicide suspects.
Homicide Review Levels
- Level 1 – In real time, the Milwaukee Police Department responds to homicides as usual, investigating why the homicide occurred and who was responsible for it.
- Level 2 – A monthly review of all homicides that occurred the prior month by primarily local criminal justice professionals. These professionals develop a detailed description of the homicide. Also called Criminal Justice Reviews.
- Level 3– A monthly review of all closed cases (cases where an individual(s) has been arrested or an arrest warrant has been issued for the homicide) by community service providers that identify community-level factors that contributed to the homicide. Also called Community Service Provider Reviews.
- Level 3A– A monthly review of all domestic violence-related homicides, which includes intimate-partner violence as well as, infant, child, and teen deaths. These reviews are attended by the law enforcement personnel working on the case, domestic violence and youth providers, and special entities such as commissions or tasks forces on domestic violence, women's health, etc.
- Level 4– An annual meeting for community members to receive and provide input and feedback on the violence prevention and interventions implemented as a result of the criminal justice and community service provider reviews. Also called Community Reviews.
The Commission is a proven model for reducing homicides and related violence that can be replicated nationally. It is the first review process of its kind in the country that combines the traditional criminal justice approach of crime incident reviews with the public health approach of death reviews into one comprehensive and collaborative process. Cities from across the country from Los Angeles, California to Baltimore, Maryland have looked to the Commission as a model review process. Additionally, an independent National Institute of Justice-funded evaluation found that where the Commission was involved (the intervention sites), homicides reduced 52% compared to 9.2% in the control sites; a statistically significant difference. The Commission and its partners began the homicide review processes using strategic analysis, Milwaukee experience a significant drop in the number of homicides – again, a 52% reduction.