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Disciplinary record

Cates was hired by the Police Department in 1997. His disciplinary record dates back to 2001 and includes infractions for mistreating a prisoner, lying and failing to carry out the functions of the department in an efficient manner, according to his personnel record. In 2002, he was suspended for two days for “failing to conform to and abide by the criminal laws in effect in the state of Wisconsin,” his record says. No further details were available.

He has appealed his firing to the Fire and Police Commission. A hearing on whether he will get his job back has not been scheduled.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Johnson would not discuss the federal investigation of Cates.

Lovern, of the district attorney’s office, said local prosecutors were informed of the federal probe a few weeks ago.

“We’re certainly willing to assist in any way possible,” he said.

Convicting police officers of crimes is “always difficult,” Lovern said.

However, officers have been convicted of crimes in recent years, including sexual assault.

In 2007, fired Milwaukee police officer Steven Lelinski was convicted of sexually assaulting women he met on duty and was sentenced to 21 years in prison. For years, the veteran officer acted as a sexual predator in a police uniform, preying on prostitutes, drug addicts and women with warrants he encountered on police calls and assaulting them, knowing their word wouldn’t stand up to his, Assistant District Attorney Miriam Falk said at Lelinski’s sentencing hearing.

Besides the charged cases of three women, Falk presented allegations against Lelinski from six other women whose cases were too old to prosecute. Several of those were reviewed earlier by the district attorney’s office and rejected because prosecutors said the women were not credible enough.

In the wake of the beating of Frank Jude Jr. at a party full of off-duty officers in 2004, three officers were acquitted in state court. Federal authorities then built a separate case, ultimately convicting seven fired officers.

It will likely be months before federal authorities complete their review of the allegations against Cates.

Meanwhile, the woman who says Cates raped her has dropped out of school. She was evicted by her landlord. She is on the verge of losing custody of her brother because of her traumatized state, she said. Six months after the incident with Cates, the woman, who has never been convicted of a crime in Wisconsin, was charged with misdemeanor prostitution and possession of marijuana in connection with a Jan. 5 incident in Fond du Lac County.

She has attempted suicide.

Yet she is holding out hope that Cates will be held accountable for what he did.

“I cry myself to sleep every night,” she said. “I would like to see him get about 500 years in prison.”

John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

Feb. 13, 2011

Fired cop no stranger to inquiries
Milwaukee police chief says ‘obvious pattern’ of serious allegations was overlooked


A recently fired Milwaukee police officer under federal investigation after a woman said he raped her on duty in July has been accused of breaking the law five times before, according to department records and officials.

Three of the previous allegations involved sexual misconduct — two with female prisoners and one with a 16-year-old girl.

The incidents involving Ladmarald Cates date to 2000, three years after he was hired by the department, according to internal affairs documents and officials.

In one case, Cates was suspended for two days for domestic violence battery. In another, he was suspended for eight days for mistreating a prisoner and failing to obey a supervisor’s orders. In the others, he was not disciplined by the department.

In two of the earlier cases, the Police Department asked the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office to consider these criminal charges against Cates: for the domestic violence battery in 2000 and sex with the teenager in 2007. He was not charged in either case.

The district attorney’s office also declined to charge Cates following the July rape complaint. The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office then opened an investigation into the incident, the Journal Sentinel reported last month.

Cates’ record shows how a police officer can rack up serious misconduct allegations for more than a decade before facing significant consequences. His history also shows that prosecutors don’t routinely consider previous complaints against officers — even though that approach led to criminal convictions for sexual assault against former officer Steven Lelinski four years ago.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, who took over in 2008, acknowledged that a computerized early-intervention system designed to identify potentially troubled officers didn’t flag Cates, who was fired in December. But Flynn said procedures instituted under his watch should stop officers like Cates from slipping through the cracks in the future.

“It is clear to me looking at this employee’s record that from a management point of view an obvious pattern was overlooked,” Flynn said. “The department did not see the forest for the trees here.”

Attorney Robin Shellow, who represents the woman who says Cates raped her following a July 911 call, said both police and prosecutors failed her client.

“I am truly saddened that the Police Department and the district attorney’s office in Milwaukee County choose to protect corrupt police officers more than the most vulnerable citizens of Milwaukee,” Shellow said. “These are poor women, women of color, women who may have made mistakes, but truly victims.”

Shellow’s client said Cates raped her and forced her to perform oral sex after he responded to her 911 call about teenagers trying to kick in the door of her north side home.

In an interview with the newspaper, the woman said numerous officers — on the scene and at the police station — accused her of lying when she begged for help and asked them to take her to the hospital. She spent about 12 hours in jail before being interviewed by internal affairs. Only after that was she taken to the hospital for treatment and evidence collection.

Cates first denied any sexual activity between them, but later admitted to internal affairs investigators they had sex, according to records.

Cates, 43, could not be reached. He denied wrongdoing in all the previous instances, according to department documents. His attorney, Jonathan Cermele, did not return telephone calls.

The misconduct allegations span the tenure of three police chiefs: Arthur Jones, Nannette Hegerty and Flynn.

“We’ve been working hard to improve and to address some of the issues for which Officer Cates is an unfortunate poster child,” Flynn said.

Flynn fired Cates in connection with the July 911 call for lying and for idling and loafing, because having sex on duty is against department rules. Cates has appealed his dismissal to the civilian Fire and Police Commission, which has the power to give him his job back. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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