On March 24, 2015 a panel of the Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (FPC) sustained Chief Edward Flynn’s decision to terminate former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney. Manney is a white officer who shot and killed an African-American man, Dontre Hamilton, on April 30, 2014 in Red Arrow Park. The commissioners determined that Manney violated department rules and training when he frisked Dontre Hamilton prior to shooting him. The ACLU of Wisconsin believes the commissioners’ decision was correct. But it is only a first step among several needed to improve the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD).
The ACLU of Wisconsin has followed the Hamilton killing as part of its advocacy to improve MPD’s delivery of police service. We do not believe that the MPD provides unbiased and professional police service in all neighborhoods.
While MPD and the FPC have made significant changes to some policies, they have not yet attacked the corrosive effect of huge numbers of officer-initiated stops in minority neighborhoods. For the past several years, MPD’s policing strategy has relied on over 200,000 officer initiated traffic and pedestrian stops every year. Residents of neighborhoods with relatively high crime are victimized twice – once by the criminals and again by police who provide them second class police service.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is quoted in the media as saying in a statement, “What was most important then, and still is today, is to find a way for our city to heal and move forward.” The ACLU of Wisconsin believes that to move forward, the MPD, the FPC, and the Common Council need to evaluate MPD’s policies, training and practices to see to what extent system problems allow biased policing and undermine good police community relations. Necessary reforms should have begun long ago.
"[The founding fathers] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be left alone -- the right most valued by civilized men."
Louis D. Brandeis
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
Louis D. Brandeis, Dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).