By Journal Sentinelof the
Eight Milwaukee aldermen — a Common Council majority — say they will support buying body cameras for all city police officers at an accelerated pace over the next few years, among other policing reforms announced Tuesday.
Ald. Willie Wade said equipping the entire force of 1,880 with body cameras would cost as much as $1 million and that funds were available through the Police Department’s asset forfeiture account. Wade spoke at a Tuesday news conference at City Hall.
Value of cash and assets taken in drug arrests and other crimes amounts to more than $1 million a year, said Ald. Nik Kovac, chairman of the council’s finance committee.
Funds cannot be used for city government operating expenses but could be used for equipment purchases, according to Kovac and Council President Michael Murphy.
Wade and four Milwaukee aldermen on Tuesday announced a series of Police Department reforms in response to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s decision not to charge a former police officer in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.
The Hamilton family had called for former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney to face criminal charges. Manney shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times on April 30 during a confrontation at the park.
The five council members pledged to support the Hamilton family in its quest for justice while working to enact reforms “that will ensure every life is protected by the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department,” they said in a statement.
“Sometimes through tragedy there is opportunity for triumph,” Ald. Milele Coggs said.
Coggs, Wade and aldermen Ashanti Hamilton, Russell Stamper II and Jose Perez called the news conference to discuss their proposed reforms. Kovac, Murphy and Ald. Robert Bauman stood with them in support of the measures.
“The Milwaukee Police Department welcomes the aldermen’s public interest in our continuing efforts to provide the city with police services of the highest ethical and professional standards,” Lt. Mark Stanmeyer, a department spokesman, said Tuesday in a statement.
The intent of the reforms is to prevent another tragedy like the fatal shooting of Hamilton by a police officer, Coggs said.
“The proposalsput forth today are good ones and I look forward to working with members of the Common Council as these reforms progress,” Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday.
Among the reforms the aldermen are seeking:
■Creation of a community advisory council to advise the Police Department on strategies for maintaining community-police relations. Coggs and Perez this month introduced a resolution to establish the council.
The Police Department participated in the creation of a Milwaukee Commission on Police Community Relations in 2005, Stanmeyer said.
■Review diversity training provided to officers and possibly seek a new contractor to provide the training.
Stanmeyer noted that the department has worked with national experts to implement a training curriculum related to “fair and impartial policing.”
■Expand the Fire and Police Commission that governs the department from seven to nine members so that it is more inclusive of the community.
■Equip each police officer with a body camera to record interactions with the public. The police department’s 2015 budget approved by the council includes $100,000 to buy 50 body cameras and data storage.
The department has completed a field test of body-worn cameras and expects to purchase some of the cameras authorized for 2015 this winter, Stanmeyer said.
“We will evaluate the systems and increase the number available for use on a continual basis,” he said.
■Creation of an early warning system to monitor individual officers for indicators of violent or aggressive tendencies. This system would use complaints against officers and performance reviews “to identify officers who may pose a threat to the public and provide those officers with the retraining and counseling they need.”
The Police Department has been using such a system since 2008, according to Stanmeyer. Guidelines for intervention by supervisors have been revised several times since then, he said.
In a statement, the aldermen said: “These proposals are only a beginning.”
“Many members of our community will rightfully object to the D.A.’s conclusions, and we would urge them to continue to maintain the peaceful nature of the demonstrations,” the statement said. “We support the right to protest and express public disagreement. Peace is more easily obtained when justice is served.”
Before the encounter in Red Arrow Park, a pair of officers responding to a call that Hamilton was asleep there checked on him twice and found he was doing nothing wrong. When Manney arrived, he was not aware that other officers had preceded him.
As Manney began to pat down Hamilton, Hamilton fought him and a confrontation ensued. Manney tried to use his baton to subdue Hamilton, but Hamilton got control of it and swung at Manney, hitting him on the side of the neck, according to Milwaukee police internal affairs.
Chisholm on Tuesday announced he had decided not to charge the former officer, saying he fired his weapon in self-defense.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Bauman said Chisholm could have appointed a special prosecutor to decide on charges.
The participation of an outside special prosecutor would have given the final opinion “a greater air of impartiality in the court of public opinion,” Bauman said. The close, daily relationship between police and the district attorney can give the appearance of a conflict of interest in evaluating police shootings, he said.