All posts tagged: Milwaukee

An Open Letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission

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An Open Letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission

From Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate
Pursuit For Change

In the summer of 2017 I addressed the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission about their directive forcing then Police Chief Flynn to reinstate dangerous non-violent felony vehicle pursuits. 

I asked the Commissioners, “How will you respond when innocent bystanders are injured and killed for chases started under this new policy?”  “How will you respond when those innocent citizens bring legal actions because this purposefully weakened policy was the direct cause of the injury or death?” and, “Have you considered other available options including funding additional technology tools proven to reduce the need for more pursuits while still allowing the capture of car thieves, drug dealers and joyriding kids?”

The Commission chose to ignore these serious concerns and instead did what no other city in the US has done. They mandated increasingthe number of allowable pursuits throughout Milwaukee’s densely populated neighborhoods.

Likely as a result of that change, and very tragically, Officer Charles Irvine was killed in a pursuit related crash in June 2018.  Officer Irvine was the same age as my son, who was also killed in an unnecessary police pursuit.  Could technology or more pursuit driving training have prevented Officer Irvine’s death?  Sadly, we will never know.

In June I read that Chief Morales and the MFPC are planning to spend precious and limited police funds for BILLBOARDSadvertising that, “Milwaukee Police chase bad guys.”  Really?  Does anyone actually believe that a few billboards will have ANY impact on Milwaukee’s criminal driving problems?  Criminals could care less what is printed on a billboard. The billboard expense is even more perplexing since the mayor and city council already voted to fund an expansion of GPS tracking technology and the supporting policy stating the system shall be installed on each new police vehicle.

Does anyone find it strange that the Chief and MFPC are leaning so heavily on pursuing fleeing offenders, no matter the reason, rather than strengthening pursuit policies, increasing officer training and using more pursuit-reduction technology the agency has already committed to implementing?  I certainly do.

Milwaukee’s 2018 pursuits are up 239 percent, and each of those chases endangers officers and citizens. How can anyone consider that to be a good thing?

Milwaukee is not alone in its pursuit-related problems. I recently spoke with Massachusetts media when an innocent father was killed while returning home from the hospital after visiting his newborn daughter for the very first time.  These unnecessary pursuit-related bystander and officer deaths continue to occur across the country every day.

Spending money on billboard advertising is wasteful.  It will not help Milwaukee to reduce reckless driving, nor reduce dangerous pursuits, nor save innocent lives.  However, allocating additional funds for officer training and acquisition of pursuit reduction tools will help protect officers and bystanders while still dealing with the criminals.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate

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Revised MPD pursuit policy now in effect

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Excellent story by reporter Evan Kruegel at Milwaukee’s CBS 58.

            Original story here
 
Milwaukee Police officers now have the authority to chase vehicles driving recklessly or involved in mobile drug dealing. Those revisions to the department’s pursuit policy went into effect Friday September 22nd.

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission ordered those changes back in July, after a majority of Common Council members wrote a letter asking them to explore changes. According to those alderman, drivers were fleeing police with no fear of being chased, due to tight restrictions. Before the revisions, officers could only pursue violent felons, and cars involved in violent crimes.

Earlier this month, Alderman Bob Donovan called the new policy “a step in the right direction.”

Crash Victims

A number of local families however, aren’t seeing it that way. In late 2009, four innocent people were killed in police pursuits in Milwaukee, prompting Chief Ed Flynn to restrict the chase policy.

Jonathan Farris runs “Pursuit for Change”, a Madison-based group advocating for stricter chase policies. Farris’ son Paul was killed in 2007, when a car fleeing from police slammed into a taxi he was taking in Boston.

“At that point I started researching police pursuits, because it didn’t make sense that they went and chased some guy who made an illegal U-turn.”  The new Milwaukee policy won’t allow pursuits for that, but could make way for pursuits involving speeding cars, or cars running red lights.

“There’s an extremely high likelihood that in the not-so-distant future, somebody in Milwaukee is going to be injured or killed because of a pursuit that occurred because of these changes.”

Farris is advocating for more federal and state money to fund things like “starchase”, which attaches a GPS dart to fleeing cars. Milwaukee Police have this technology, but it’s unclear how often it’s being used.

In a statement Friday, the Fire and Police Commission said it will be closely monitoring the results of the new policy, saying “police pursuits should be a last resort, not a first.”

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Why MFPC Wants More Police Pursuits

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It is my personal opinion that this is a case of a Commission ceding to City Alders’ pressure. Departmental micromanagement by MFPC and a forced weakening of a strong policy, such as currently mandated, will most certainly result in more deaths of innocent Milwaukee citizens.  -Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change

Here is the link for Jon Farris’ comments to the MFPC in July. http://www.pursuitforchange.org/advocacy/statement-for-the-milwaukee-fire-police-commission/

 

 

 

 

 

ORIGINAL OP ED: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2017/08/23/op-ed-why-fpc-wants-more-police-pursuits/
We seek to work cooperatively with police chief while responding to community concerns.
By – Aug 23rd, 2017 11:23 am

Why FPC Wants More Police Pursuits

The opinion of Matthew Flynn in the August 18th Op Ed in this publication, while a valuable contribution to the pursuit policy debate, nonetheless rests on some fundamental mischaracterizations which should be corrected in order for the public to have an honest understanding of the directive recently issued by the Fire and Police Commission.

He begins be stating that “the MPD would be required to continue high speed pursuits of automobiles under some circumstances.” This is false. The directive does not require police pursuit in any circumstance, it instead allows pursuit in certain additional specific circumstances. Current policy language already affords the involved officers discretion when deciding whether or not to pursue and our directive does not demand any change to this discretion.

Many people, including Mr. Flynn, attempt to infer that our directive demands that drivers would be pursued for traffic offenses. While the reason an officer might attempt to pull a vehicle over could likely indeed be a traffic offense, the reason a pursuit might be initiated is because the subject driver is fleeing from a lawful traffic stop at high speeds. The act of fleeing can be a violent felony, and it is the driver of the fleeing vehiclewho is using reckless deadly force by fleeing dangerously at high speed, and it is the driver of the fleeing vehicle who is endangering the public. Furthermore, the reactive pursuit action by law enforcement in these situations is clearly and unambiguously justified by the US Supreme Court majority opinion in Scott v. Harris. Despite this wide legal latitude, the directive keeps in place the existing overarching theme of restriction to the practice and only broadens the existing pursuable offenses modestly and reasonably to include mobile drug dealing, fleeing from police multiple times, and excessively reckless driving.

It is true when the author states “There are many methods and technologies to arrest drivers later, even drivers of stolen cars.” The Fire and Police Commission fully supports and encourages the use of alternative methods for apprehending fleeing drivers. This is why our directive also calls for a follow-up report from the MPD which we hope will show progress in the department’s efforts in non-pursuit follow up. The FPC was forced to ask for such a report on non-pursuits precisely because of the unsatisfactory findings in our commission’s research report on the topic.

Finally, the claim is that replacing Chief Flynn with another police chief will result in an increase of deadly force by MPD is offensive to the professionalism of our police force. The author presents no evidence to support this claim nor does the directive have anything to do with Chief Flynn personally. The FPC is fulfilling its duty to work collaboratively with the Chief to make Milwaukee’s policing more effective. The FPC was in place well before Chief Flynn was hired and he was well aware of the board’s authority when he accepted the position; Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 62.50 clearly states that the board may prescribe general policies and standards for the departments.

As a diverse group of Milwaukee residents acting as the citizens’ voice in fire and police matters, we take this responsibility seriously and are committed to the goal of reducing crime, fear and disorder in our city. The citizen board members of the FPC have heard the undeniable voice of the citizens of the city who have been begging our body to help the police department make our streets safer, and we have acted with a measured and common sense response.

Steven M. DeVougas was appointed to the Board in September 2013, elected Chair in July, 2015 and re-elected Chair in July, 2016. His term expires in 2018. Mr. DeVougas received his Juris Doctor from Marquette University Law School in 2007. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2004, with degrees in Economics and English. He is Past-President of the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers and has been named “40 under 40” by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

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High speed chases have killed thousands of innocent bystanders

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A death a day from police chases

RUNNING RED LIGHTS AT 100-MPH PLUS

Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this story used an incorrect first name for Maj. Travis Yates

More than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The bystanders and the passengers in chased cars account for nearly half of all people killed in police pursuits from 1979 through 2013, USA TODAY found. Most bystanders were killed in their own cars by a fleeing driver.

Police across the USA chase tens of thousands of people each year — usually for traffic violations or misdemeanors — often causing drivers to speed away recklessly. Recent cases show the danger of the longstanding police practice of chasing minor offenders.

A 25-year-old New Jersey man was killed July 18 by a driver police chased for running a red light.

A 63-year-old Indianapolis grandmother was killed June 7 by a driver police chased four miles for shoplifting.

A 60-year-old federal worker was killed March 19 near Washington, D.C., by a driver police chased because his headlights were off.

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