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Chief says officers lacked evidence needed for drug arrests

Neighbors reported drug activity to police

March 18, 2009

Police tried to stop apparent drug activity at a Berkeley Boulevard house where a 15-year-old Whitefish Bay girl is believed to have obtained drugs the day before she died, Whitefish Bay Police Chief Robert Jacobs reported to the Village Board on March 16.

Although the Police Department has been criticized in the media for not stopping the alleged drug activity after reports from neighbors started coming in more than a year ago, Jacobs said officers had watched the house on a regular basis.

But they observed no criminal acts, drug transactions or high-volume of traffic, Jacobs told trustees.

Officers also stopped visiting cars, when they had probable cause, he said, in order to question people and possibly discover drugs.

Police also had a potential informant in 2008, "But at the last minute, that person backed out," Jacobs said.

Whitefish Bay police also called on county and state law enforcement authorities for help.

Despite these efforts, police could not develop enough evidence for a search warrant or to make an arrest, he said of the period before the March 1 death of Madison Kiefer.

About a week after Madison's death, police arrested 22-year-old Matthew Laughrin of the Berkeley Boulevard home, who has been charged with felony drug possession. Police also arrested two others who are facing charges, Jacobs reported.

Neighbor John Kishline, who made many calls to police about suspected drug activity, said March 17, "I find it very hard to understand why they did not tap the phone and search his house."

Laughrin has a drug history and neighbors have called about possible drug trafficking, he said

"That is not enough to satisfy the (Milwaukee County) District Attorney's Office and the court's requirements to get a search warrant or an arrest warrant," Jacobs said.

"I've heard 'probable cause' an awful lot," Kishline said. "But I've had to live next door to it."

Jane Ford-Stewart can be reached at (262) 446-6607.

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