Milwaukee  – News reports confirm that Milwaukee criminal cases could be compromised due to a “catastrophic” malfunction in January of a contracted video system used for capturing interviews and confessions of suspects, reports Watchdog news service.

Alderman Joe Davis, a member of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said he had not heard about the problem until Wisconsin Watchdog brought it to his attention.

“If in fact this is true, clearly it is malfeasance in office. No one came to us to tell us about this issue,” said Davis, who is a candidate for Milwaukee mayor. “This puts the city of Milwaukee in an incredibly liable position … It’s not only a fiscal issue but an administrative issue that reeks of incompetence.”

Alderman Bob Donovan wrote on his Facebook page: “First we had his lies about The Milwaukee Streetcar, now the Mayor is proving to be a liar again regarding what he knew and when he knew it regarding a critical situation with Milwaukee Police Department’s videotaped statement/confessions system which crashed in January, resulting in hundreds if not thousands of criminal cases possibly being compromised.”

No one seems to know when the problem was initially detected however, Watchdog reports that the Milwaukee Police Department’s videotaping system malfunctioned in January. The department has been unable to recover hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews with suspects because of the malfunction.

Because of the malfunction Sources tell Wisconsin Watchdog that “Milwaukee County assistant district attorneys have been filing motions to put off trials because they don’t have the interrogation tapes.”

At least 19 states mandate the recording of interrogations for certain crimes, including Wisconsin, which mandates recordings of interviews with felony suspects.

Mayor Barrett told WITI-TV FOX 6 News that he first learned of the matter “in the last few days”.

However, Alderman Donovan said “that is a boldface LIE”.

Donovan states that while the Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee District Attorney’s office, judges, lawyers and defendants all knew going back to at least January about the data loss, how is it that the mayor found out a few days ago?

State Representative Joel Kleefisch and State Senator Van Wanggaard announced Tuesday a joint hearing will be pursued on the matter.

An email from Rep. Joel Kleefisch said:

As Chairs of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee respectively, Senator Van Wanggaard and I will be holding a joint hearing with invited speakers Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, and Milwaukee Police Association President Michael Crivello.  The objective of this hearing is to understand the breadth and effect of the missing evidence on pending criminal cases.  This hearing is preliminarily scheduled for Wednesday May 20.

The leadership of both houses supports the proposed hearing.