WTMJ In Hot Water with Local Police Over Promotion of Sweeps Story

By Kevin Eck 

A story Milwaukee NBC affiliate WTMJ promoted for sweeps as “an explosive I-Team investigation months in the making” about a Milwaukee police officer taking money from a man at an ATM has landed the station in hot water with the Milwaukee police chief.

“People deserve to know the truth,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn in a press conference the morning before the story aired. “And I have no confidence that that truth will be known watching this TV story’s coverage of its own sweeps story.”

The promo (above) shows surveillance video of a Milwaukee police officer at an ATM with a man in February.  The promo copy says, “It’s the video that has everyone talking. A Milwaukee police officer taking a man’s cash out of an ATM. Then walking off with that cash in hand. What’s really going on? The Milwaukee police department has some explaining to do.”

Chief Flynn did just that, calling a press conference to dispute the claims in the promo. “…what I sincerely believe here is we’re engaged in a situation in which one of our news outlets is willfully misrepresenting the facts known to them,” said Flynn. “They’re maligning the reputation of one of our officers in front of the greater metropolitan area with absolutely no proof of wrongdoing.”

The video in question shows the officer, who was cleared of any wrongdoing in March, and what the Milwaukee police are saying is a drunk Marine walking into a bank at 2:25 a.m., according to surveillance video. The video shows the officer taking the man’s ATM card, punching in the man’s pin, withdrawing money, then counting the money out and leaving with the man.

The back story goes something like this, the drunk Marine broke a taxicab’s window.  The cabdriver demanded $300 to repair the damage.  The Marine and the officer went to the ATM. The officer helped the man withdraw the money and then paid the cabbie.

While the WTMJ promo focuses on the money exchange, the story looks at the investigation of the incident and raises the larger issue that the bank security guard who initially witnessed what happened didn’t trust the Milwaukee P.D. enough to let them investigate the incident on their own, instead he sent the surveillance video to the FBI and to WTMJ.

WTMJ declined to comment on the story.

Click here to watch the story. You can see the chief’s press conference by clicking here.