Opinion: Milwaukee Gambles with Citizen and Officer Lives

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Opinion: Milwaukee Gambles with Citizen and Officer Lives

by Jonathan Farris
Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
December 10, 2018

On Thursday, December 6, the Milwaukee Police Department announced that carjackings were down and @Fox6Now Milwaukee  reported that “police credit change in pursuit policy for dramatic decrease in carjackings.”  This is a story about the City of Milwaukee and their quest to reduce joyriding and stolen vehicles. It is an honorable mission, but they are using a very deadly battle plan.

In this recent story, please note this critical statistic. “In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.”  MPD is on its way to over 900 pursuits this year. That means officers and innocent citizens will have been placed in harm’s way +500 times more in 2018 than in 2017.

That ought to scare anyone who lives in or near the city or ever visits Milwaukee. These stats mean there will be, on average, EIGHTEEN chases per week.

There are other glaring omissions in this news story.

First, as I understand the previous MPD vehicular pursuit policy, in place before the MFPC mandated now-retired Chief Flynn to weaken it, that policy specifically permitted pursuits for carjacked vehicles because carjacking is a crime of violence. Therefore, to assert that pursuits for traffic violations impact the number of carjackings is false.

Second, it’s critical to understand there is no causal relationship between increased pursuits for misdemeanor traffic violation and non-violent felonies and any reduction in carjackings (which are violent felonies).

Third, well before MPD’s pursuit policy was weakened, carjackings were on a downward track. From 2015-2017, carjackings went down 21% and from 2016 to 2017, the reduction was 12%. *

Finally, and of greatest importance, we have already forgotten about those who were killed and injured in these 2018 chases. It seems like personal tragedies end up as so much collateral damage, forgotten before the wreckage is cleaned from the street.

But I will not forget. Ever. It’s personal. Here are just a few of the horrible outcomes that these 2018 increased police chases have caused in Milwaukee. Note that the first three of these, each with the death of an officer or innocent, were pursuits as the result of non-violent felonies and traffic violations.

Milwaukee police officer killed, another injured in squad car crash.  STORY HERE
Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation” and not a violent crime.
A Milwaukee police officer was killed Thursday and a fellow officer was injured when their squad car crashed while chasing another vehicle, authorities said. The death of Officer Charles Irvine Jr., 23, was confirmed during an evening news conference by Milwaukee police Chief Alfonso Morales.

Innocent citizen killed by driver fleeing police.  STORY HERE
Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation” and not a violent crime.
A 65-year-old woman, who was the front passenger of the Hyundai, suffered fatal injuries during the accident. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified her as Sylvia Tiwari. “She was like a mother, a mentor, a pastor. When they took her, they definitely took a part of me,” said a co-worker of Tiwari.
Debris in the road belonged to the car that was carrying Tawari and her daughter Latrece Hughes, now in critical condition.

‘This was horrific:’ 1 dead, 2 seriously injured after police pursuit ends in crash.  STORY HERE
Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation” and not a violent crime.
A police pursuit on Milwaukee’s south side led to a deadly rollover crash. One person died and a 20-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, were seriously injured during the accident. They were both taken to a hospital for medical care.

3 in custody after police pursuit, crash involving taxi in Milwaukee.  STORY HERE
Reason for pursuit – “reckless operation violation”. Pursuing officers were unaware of possible earlier criminal activity.  
A high-speed pursuit with Milwaukee police ended in a violent crash near 27th and Hadley. The fleeing driver crashed into a taxi. Three people in the taxi were taken to the hospital.

There are more stories, more unsuspecting citizens and more courageous officers who will be caught up in the insanity of Milwaukee’s increased pursuits of non-violent felony offenders. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that has long tracked officer fatalities, published that “over the past 20 years, traffic-related incidents have been the number one cause of officer fatalities.” And sadly, as of 2018 Officer Irvine is a member of that group.

Milwaukee can do better – just ask other cities that invested in training and technology to reduce deaths and injuries related to pursuits. And as I said in an August 31, 2018 article, Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council have approved funding  for additional technology tools to be used by MPD. Yet nothing has been done with those funds.

Until saner minds prevail, I will most certainly be reporting more of Milwaukee’s police chase deaths and serious injuries and the lawsuits that will follow.

*Office of Management Analysis & Planning, Milwaukee Police Department, 12/29/2017


Click for Milwaukee’s Fox 6 News report.  ORIGINAL STORY or ORIGINAL VIDEO

‘No one deserves it:’ Police credit change in pursuit policy for dramatic decrease in carjackings

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 a decrease in carjackings within the city. Police credited a change in the pursuit policy — with officers going after stolen cars and reckless drivers more often.

In 2017, there were 386 pursuits. As of Dec. 6, 2018, there had been more than 800.

Bianca Williams

“Some people thought they were just joyriding. Like, I could just ride around,” said Bianca Williams, Stop the Stollies.

Williams said there are carjackers in her family.

“Some of them got jail time,” said Williams.

That’s why Williams started “Stop the Stollies,” a campaign aimed at educating young people about the seriousness of stealing cars.

“Some of them get the (GPS) bracelet and really learned the hard way,” said Williams.

Michael Brunson

For those who end up losing control and crashing, the reality is even more harsh.

“So many young folks are losing their lives and others are losing their lives behind this senseless crime,” Williams said.

Milwaukee police said they are starting to see success in curbing carjackings. Police said public education, police patrols and investigation are helping.

“To go after those individuals who are prone and have committed these types of crimes in the past — so what we do is, we collaborate and focus on these individuals in order to interdict and capture them soon after we commit these crimes or turn into a spree,” said Assistant Chief Michael Brunson, Milwaukee Police Department.

Police said if you look at November carjackings for the past three years, they are down 59 percent. Since 2015, the average has been 56 a year. In November 2018, there were 23.

Steve Caballero

“Trying to hold kids more accountable. Again, it’s a good working relationship between the police department, our Criminal Investigation Bureau, our patrol people at the children’s center, the district attorney’s office — holding kids accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Chief Steve Caballero, Milwaukee Police Department.

One of the biggest factors in the decrease, according to police, is the fact that carjackers are getting the message that the police pursuit police has changed. Police do chase stolen cars and reckless drivers.

“God knows it’s been really hard, especially with the older population. They’ve been assaulted and different things. No one deserves that. Younger, older, no one deserves it,” said Williams.

Police said the community has been an important piece of the effort –and they do follow up on your tips.

adminOpinion: Milwaukee Gambles with Citizen and Officer Lives

2 comments

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  • Jai - December 14, 2018 reply

    The average age of suspects is mid MID TWENTIES AND 91% ARE merely suspected of NON VIOLENT crimes.
    No one reports or apparently cares about those like the young man recently SHOT TO DEATH by Oklahoma Deputies who accused him of stealing a car and brandishing a weapon later proved untrue by dashcam video. All too late and never forgotten by loves ones.
    To run when chased is instinct. To chase when defied is training.
    Training gone mad with prosecution sold out.

    admin - December 17, 2018 reply

    Thanks for your comments. Across the US pursuits involve people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. The majority of pursuits BEGIN as the result of a misdemeanor violation or some other non-violent felony (such as a stolen vehicles). Law enforcement and officers on the street typically follow a formal emergency vehicle operations policy with pursuit driving being a part of that. One huge problem that exists is many of the pursuit driving policies are inherently weak, leaving the final chase – no-chase decision to the officer. That leads to inconsistency and emotion coming into play. Pursuit For Change is advocating for significantly stricter chase policies (violent felony only; like Milwaukee PREVIOUSLY had), significantly more training for officers (similar to the frequency of training they receive for weapons usage), and greater usage of the new technology tools available which will reduce the need for dangerous chases.

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