Milwaukee cops take 75-year-old woman’s day from bad to worse

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel – by Jim Stingl

Starting her day with a serious traffic accident was bad enough.

But Joy McFarlin’s run-in with two Milwaukee police officers was worse.

Before it was over, this 75-year-old grandmother had been threatened repeatedly with jail, arrested, put in handcuffs, placed in a squad car and taken to a police station.  

The two cops had the notion based on witness statements that McFarlin was lying by insisting she, and not some mystery man, was driving her car at the time of the crash. They thought she was covering up for a guy who fled the accident scene.

There was no such guy, she said, but she could not convince the police of that.

And the accident wasn’t even her fault.

“This was not about my driving. They didn’t think I wasdriving,” she told me. “I always believed you had to do something wrong to be arrested. I’m too old to be naive, but I really did.”

Milwaukee police are saying the officers eventually realized they couldn’t prove she was lying, and they let her go with no charges or citations. But it was a rough couple hours.

Let’s back up to Tuesday morning when this story begins. McFarlin, a widow who lives on Milwaukee’s northwest side, was heading to Potawatomi Casino for bingo and buffet with friends. She was driving her late husband’s 20-year-old Dodge Dakota pickup, which is now totaled.

Eastbound on Wisconsin Ave., she stopped for the traffic light at the intersection with N. 35th St. When the light turned green she proceeded, but was hit by a northbound car that she said ran the red light. Her truck spun around and wound up on the median, with the driver’s door facing the eastbound traffic lanes.

So she struggled to get out the passenger side door instead. That’s when a young man showed up to assist her. She didn’t catch his name.

“He helped me across the street. There was a bus stop shelter there. He stayed with me and kept me talking because I was so shaky,” she said.

Another man walked up and asked the good Samaritan if he was driving the truck. McFarlin said no, that she was driving. McFarlin thinks witnesses might have seen the young guy helping her from the passenger side and assumed he was the driver. When the paramedics showed up, the helpful guy left the scene.

Then two Milwaukee police officers, one male and one female, approached her. The female officer immediately set the tone.

“She took an aggressive pose with her hands on her hips and told me that I better be telling the truth or I was going to jail. This was her first approach to me. I told her just what happened, and she said I was lying and I better not lie or I was going to jail,” McFarlin said.

She was in pain and feeling faint, so the paramedics took her by ambulance to Aurora Sinai Medical Center. The same two officers showed up there and continued questioning her, with the female officer being aggressive and the male officer being more friendly.

“I watch a lot of TV. I know the term. It’s good cop, bad cop. When I thought about it afterward, they both overplayed it,” said McFarlin, adding that she had never before been arrested.

“She said things like what are your grandchildren going to think of you. She said there was a video of a black man getting out of the truck, and I was lying. This went on and on. She kept saying I would go to jail for some man,” McFarlin said.

There was no such black man, she said, and even the good Samaritan was white. It sounded like a bluff.

Finally, they put the handcuffs on and led her, in view of other patients and visitors, to the squad car. She was not allowed to call anyone. “It was as if I had gone into the Twilight Zone. I was so frightened,” she said.

She was taken to the District 3 police station, questioned more and then released. A friend contacted by a doctor at Aurora Sinai drove her home.

Milwaukee police spokesman Sgt. Timothy Gauerke talked to the officers Friday and told me witnesses at the crash scene said McFarlin was lying about being the driver. But traffic cam video did not capture the incident, despite their claims to her that it had, so they released her.

I asked if she received an apology. Gauerke said McFarlin told the officers she understood they were doing their job. The officers told Gauerke they gave the woman a break, because of her age, by handcuffing in front rather than behind her back.

It’s a common police technique to tell someone we know you’re lying based on witness statements, Gauerke said.

“It’s to encourage the person, ‘Look, the jig is up, we know what happened. You may as well just tell us.’ She stuck with her story and that’s why she was arrested,” he said.

She stuck with the truth, it appears.

McFarlin still has pain in her neck, chest and back from the crash impact, but that will probably go away before the trauma of the police interaction. She doesn’t plan to file a formal complaint or lawsuit, and said she contacted the newspaper so people would know what she experienced.

“That was the wrong way for me to be treated,” she said. “It should not have happened.”

Call Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or email at

3 thoughts on “Milwaukee cops take 75-year-old woman’s day from bad to worse

  1. Cops aren’t even human. They’ll even harangue an old lady who was just in an accident to find any excuse to make an arrest.

    Every last one of the stinking pig bastards has to go. They’re low-life dirt bags whose only purpose is to physically remove our Bill of Rights while the courts do it on paper.

    They’re a menace to society, and serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

    Show me the cop who ever helped anyone. Show me the cop who actually fights crime. That crap only happens on TV, and the real cops we have to deal with are criminal, sadistic animals, and nothing more.

    1. Amen!

      I would remind anyone who disagrees with you that even the increasingly rare “good” cops — those who don’t use excessive force or otherwise act like thugs — will still ALWAYS support the ones who do. Those who cover up for evil are themselves evil.

      In addition, ALL cops are in the business of enforcing blatantly unjust laws against victimless “crimes,” contributing to the surveillance state, and generally supporting tyranny. If there is an exception out there somewhere, I have yet to see it. But the pigs aren’t so dedicated to “law enforcement” when one of their fellow pigs commits a crime: drunk driving, excessive force, domestic violence, or whatever. They’ll do whatever it takes to get him off the hook.

      The pigs are one big mercenary gang who get paid to ruin lives and destroy the Bill of Rights. I agree that they should be done away with. A better system can be worked out in which citizens protect themselves and others against common criminals.

  2. “She said things like what are your grandchildren going to think of you.”

    A better question: What are her grandchildren going to think of the pigs?

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