Bullying Milwaukee Police Fine 70-Year-Old Widow for Defending Dog

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Update: Readers can contact the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS) on this matter at: Letters to the Editor http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=766191

Milwaukee, Wisconsin’€”Donna Ganong is a 70-year-old widow running a corner tavern on Milwaukee’s near-south side.

In early July, Mrs. Ganong tried to help a crying, hungry dog in an alley, and the Milwaukee police fined her $350 for her trouble.

Located at the corner of 1400 West Orchard Street and South 14th Street, Ganong’€™s Corner, has seen its share of life, though the neighborhood bar is not much of a blip on the Milwaukee radar screen.

Apparently the people don’t matter all that much to the Milwaukee police either.

Mrs. Ganong lost her husband, Ron, and one of her three children; but loves running her bar (she has been in the tavern business for 34 years) and is one of the community’s unofficial neighborhood watch leaders’€”keeping in frequent touch with neighbors about the area’s heavy vandalism and crime problems.

Nice woman, right?

Not according to the Milwaukee police and one Officer Baker whose apparent priorities and lack of discretion do discredit to the force.

On the rainy night of July 7th, Mrs. Ganong, an animal lover, heard a dog yelping and crying in the alley adjacent to her tavern.

Investigating, she found a dog, appearing hungry, tied up in the alley, and told a man she believed to be the owner of the dog that he should take the dog inside and feed him.

According to Mrs. Ganong, the man, (described as about six-foot, approximately 160 lbs), refused Ganong’€™s request, and said not very nice things to her in response to her suggestion, statements allegedly that included “… white bitch.”

Nice.

Mrs. Ganong phoned the police, who arrived, and gave both people disorderly conduct tickets, though the man with the dog may have been given a ticket for disturbing the peace, or as Ganong says in a heavy south-side accent, for ‘€œcruelty to animals.’€

Mrs. Ganong’€™s ticket described the six-foot man as a “victim,” to whom the “subject (Mrs. Ganong) intentionally made threats to cause bodily harm … causing the victim to flee for their safety.”

So, let’s see a five-four, 70-year-old woman berates a six-foot man in an alley to take care of his dog, and the cop describes the man as a victim.

“If someone mistreats an animal or a kid, I’m right there. I speak up,” said Ganong, though she said that she is not always keen on the idea of walking alone into alleys on summer nights, she just loves dogs.

Apparently, Ganong told the arriving officer to take care of the dog or she would.

This is the ‘€œthreat’€ that Officer Baker contends is disorderly conduct.

It gets worse.

Ganong left the alley and went to home, and then heard heavy banging on her door that now has visible dents and looks like it had been smashed.

Apparently, it was the cop banging something against the door that sounded like a nightstick to Ganong. But this 70-year-old woman became scared, refusing to open her door. She had had enough drama for the night.

Not enough for Officer Baker (now there’s a real hero) who promptly wrote a second $175 disorderly conduct ticket reading “(Ganong) intentionally obstructed the issuance of a citation by going inside her residence and refusing to talk to police. …”

Apparently, Officer Baker can’t quite comprehend how two men in an alley might intimidate a woman who tried to help a dog in distress.

Ganong’s son, Greg, is angry. “I guess the cops think a 70-year-old woman is a real threat,” he said bitterly, sipping a beer.

So, Mrs. Ganong, who says the worst thing she has ever done is get a speeding ticket, was cited twice on that July night for disorderly conduct, tickets totaling $350 that Mrs. Ganong is very insistent on challenging at her court date on August 25.

Area homeowners at the bar say their yards are regularly littered and vandalized by often loud patrons walking by after other taverns close blocks away, and that they appreciate the efforts of Ganong and other neighbors keeping their eyes out for each other.

But I can see why they would think twice before calling the police to report anything ‘€” when that alert might make them the object of unwelcome and unpleasant police attention. So goes the Milwaukee Police Department’s attempts at community relations.

The gregarious Mrs. Ganong always has a story to tell at the bar, and the regulars say she is the “salt of the earth.”

Ganong says she is content, though she says there is growing lack of respect among the young people she encounters, and she objects to the direction that she sees her neighborhood going.

But she says not to feel sorry for her; she can take care of herself.

I believe her.

But now, the Milwaukee police have this 70-year-old woman very disappointed, angry, and scared, wondering just whose side the police are on.

A fine of $350 may not seem like a lot of money, but the sense of betrayal that Mrs. Ganong and her customers feel cuts pretty deep.

Mrs. Ganong says anyone from the Milwaukee media who wants to call and talk to her about this incident can call the bar at: (414) 645-3707.

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