Brown Deer Police and Domestic Violence

By Attorney Gregg Herman
October 29, 2012

The Brown Deer police department has recently come under a great deal of criticism for the way they handled calls involving Randall Houghton, the shooter in the Azana spa multiple murder.
First, let me get my bias out on the table.  Brown Deer Chief Steve Rinzel is a friend of mine.  He is an excellent cop and a good person.

Second, my credentials:  I was a prosecutor for over seven years, handling misdemeanors for much of the first two and a half years.  I handled many domestic violence cases.   While we don’t handle very many domestic violence cases in my current divorce practice, it does happen, although we make it a practice to never represent domestic violence perpetrators.  [Side note:  The Friday before the murders, Houghton called my office seeking representation.  He never got to speak to me as my staff screens calls and, knowing just a little bit of his domestic violence history, told him that I would not be able to help him].

Before people, including those “domestic violence experts” quoted in the paper, criticize the Brown Deer police department, several things should be known:

Perhaps the only effective treatment for this problem would be more services for domestic violence victims.  Most of them lack both emotional and financial resources.  As an Assistant D.A. in Milwaukee County, we had a staff of victim and witness specialists who would provide invaluable assistance.  The court system is frightening and domestic violence victims have been stripped of any sense of worth and self-confidence.  Providing them with counselors would assist them in getting through the process.

Of course, providing these resources would cost money.  It is far cheaper to play Monday morning quarterback and criticize police officers who have to make instant decisions on how to minimize risk to themselves and others.  Cheaper — and neither fair nor helpful.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman S.C. in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.