MILWAUKEE — More than 100 law enforcement agencies have withdrawn from helping the Milwaukee Police Department at the Democratic National Convention, three weeks before the big event. According to the police chief, the agencies cited concerns over potential new policies related to crowd control.
The Milwaukee Police Department requested the help of more than 1,000 officers from other law enforcement departments for security at the Democratic National Convention. Even though the event will be scaled-down at the Wisconsin Center due to the COVID-19 pandemic, losing many of these officers will make things more complex for Milwaukee police.
Chief Alfonso Morales now has to deal with a new task with only three weeks until the DNC.
He could not reveal the number of officers he’s lost for security reasons but says the reason agencies pulled out of the convention has to do with the Fire and Police Commission directives given to him last week related to crowd control. Specifically, they’re concerned over the directive to discontinue the use of tear gas and large amounts of pepper spray.
“When you rule an unlawful assembly to help break up that crowd, once we deem them unruly, that’s a safe manner in doing so. Not having those tools increases the potential for more violence,” Morales said. “That’s a big concern for the law enforcement community within Milwaukee and outside of Milwaukee.”
This is how the departments in West Allis, Fond du Lac and Franklin feel. They’re just three of the local agencies that withdrew. Altogether, they were going to send 30 officers.
West Allis Chief Patrick Mitchell released the following statement to TMJ4 News:
When I signed the [Memorandum of Understanding], I relied upon the fact that the Milwaukee Police Department would provide adequate equipment and that they would have adequate policies in place related to crowd control. It is clear because of recent actions / statements by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission as well as the Milwaukee Common Council that the Milwaukee Police Department will be required to change their policies pertaining to crowd control. I am unwilling to ask West Allis Officers to work in an uncertain environment where they may not have the appropriate equipment to safeguard citizens and themselves.
Fond du Lac Chief William Lamb also released a statement saying in part:
We respect the FPC's decision making authority but we strongly disagree with the actions that they've taken; we believe that removing those tools from the available resources for law enforcement officers to use if protests become non-peaceful will severely compromise the safety of the public but also the men and women who will be called upon to protect the DNC. Of course, we understand that the use of chemical irritants/OC is very serious and are tools or tactics to be used only when legally justifiable and where other options in a given situation would be ineffective. But, they are a time proven tool that can be used to very safely and effectively prevent, stop or otherwise control protests that have become non-peaceful from escalating into full rioting and extreme violence.
Franklin told TMJ4 News they pulled out of helping at the DNC, quoting the FPC’s directive.
On the other hand, some agencies, including Glendale and Brown Deer said they still plan to send some of their officers to the convention.
So where does the police department go from here? Morales said he’s concerned if they’ll have enough law enforcement to protect Milwaukee and visitors at the DNC. He doesn’t reject getting help from the National Guard or federal government.
“Those will be options and those options are still at the table,” Morales said.
Morales said when it comes to peaceful protests they don’t need a police presence, but said when they turn violent it’s important that they have less-lethal tools at their disposal.
The Fire and Police Commission is expected to discuss the discontinuation of tear gas and pepper spray at their meeting this Thursday.