The Milwaukee Police Department has temporarily taken its news website, MilwaukeePoliceNews.com, offline after indications Tuesday night that the site was “being disabled by an outside group.”
The department’s main website, milwaukee.gov/police, remains online, but the news site could be down for days while the department conducts upgrades to improve site security after the possible hacking attempt.
“Although we were able to quickly restore the site, we have proactively taken the site offline to perform upgrades and prevent future disruption,” police said in a news release Wednesday.
Police didn’t use the term “hacking,” saying only that the cause of the “brief interruption in service” remains under investigation. The upgrades are expected to be complete in the coming days, the department said.
The news site was launched in 2012, when it won praise for its sleek design, and the department often uses it to post news releases about arrests made by its officers. Police said residents can still receive information on the main Milwaukee police website, as well as the department’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Hackers made note Tuesday night on Twitter that the Milwaukee police news site was down, sharing a link to a report of a website check shortly after 10 p.m.
“U Better leave them protesters alone,” one Twitter user, calling himself Axiøm, tweeted about an hour before Milwaukee police said they became aware of the vulnerability around 10 p.m.
Shortly after that, the Twitter user Anonymous also noted the website was down.
“@MilwaukeePolice harass #BlackLivesMatter protesters,” the tweet said. “@MilwaukeePolice website: milwaukeepolicenews.com is DOWN.”
Hackers also tweeted that the website for the police union, the Milwaukee Police Association, was disabled Tuesday night, again sharing a link to a site check. The Milwaukee Police Association website, however, was up and running Wednesday morning.
The Milwaukee Police Association could not be reached for comment, and Milwaukee police didn’t respond to a request for additional information.
The chatter on Twitter suggested the sites may have been targeted in retaliation for how Milwaukee police have handled protesters in the case of Dontre Hamilton, the unarmed man who was shot and killed by a Milwaukee officer in Red Arrow Park in April.
About 100 demonstrators had gathered Monday at a city police station to object to what they said was an escalating crackdown on the protests.
Milwaukee police spokesman Lt. Mark Stanmeyer said in response that the department facilitates demonstrations against police, but officers take action when protesters engage in behavior that endangers safety.
One particular incident Friday “quickly devolved from a so-called protest into a disorderly congregation,” Stanmeyer said, and prosecutors are reviewing the incident for possible charges.
Christopher Manney, the officer who shot Hamilton, has since been fired for not following proper procedures when he conducted the pat-down of Hamilton that led to the scuffle and shooting.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced last week that he would not pursue criminal charges against Manney, saying the officer acted in self-defense.