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Checking in on local efforts towards police reform

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 19:19:16-04

MILWAUKEE — It's been about a month and a half since protests began to call on reform in law enforcement. Municipalities all across the area have made promises for body cameras, budget cuts or establishing new commissions. TMJ4 News looked into the progress being made towards those efforts.

Mayor Tom Barrett announced a new commission on police accountability and reform on June 5th. As of today, the Mayor's office says they do not have an update on the commission to share at this time.

However, this newest commission raised some eyebrows.

"I think it was being reactionary to a very volatile situation," Fred Royal, President of the NAACP Milwaukee Chapter said. "Certainly, in those moments, you need too how leadership and, unfortunately, no one had advised [Mayor Barrett] of the initiatives currently being addressed and worked on."

Royal is a member of a committee called the Community Coalition for Quality Policing which aims to change the mindset of policing into a 21st century model.

"Progress is being made," Royal said. "It may not be publicized as widely as it should be but there is some movement on the use of force policies. Police reform is bigger than just use of force. We have to address the mindset of law enforcement from the old warrior mindset to the new guardian mindset."

Royal also says efforts like that of Ald. Russell Stamper are making reform happen. Stamper pushed for the "I can't breathe" resolution which would require officers to address the needs of a person in custody if they need medical attention.

This newest commission, to Royal, is redundant.

"I didn't think it was another level of bureaucracy that was needed," Royal said. "I think there was a sufficient amount of people looking at reforming police and improving police-community relations."

In Wauwatosa, they recently voted to start the process of getting body cameras for police within six months and, Wednesday, handed down discipline to Officer Joseph Mensah.

Mensah was suspended after fatally shooting three men in the line of duty over the last five years.

In Kenosha County, the County Board of Supervisors will look into a resolution on reform in the Sheriff's Department. However, it's been over a month since the resolution was introduced.

"It's been pretty quiet," Erin Decker, the author of the resolution said. "I actually haven't gotten any comments or calls from any of the other county board supervisors regarding this resolution so I don't really know what's going on."

The resolution was tabled during their meeting on June 30. Decker fears her fellow supervisors are delaying the resolution to stymie the momentum from when the protests first started.

"We did meet with a community of people from the African American community and they're the ones that gave us the ideas on this and their thoughts and what should be done," Decker said. "This actually gets things that people in the community are looking for and want enacted."

The resolution asks for:

  • Body cameras for the department
  • Protections for any whistleblowers
  • Independent review of complaints
  • Get rid of military-style vehicles unused in last two years

Supervisor Terry Rose says they wanted to investigate the cost analysis for the resolution before making any judgement. He says, holding law enforcement accountable is a top priority.

"I'm not saying there are no problems," Rose said. "But overall, I would say the Kenosha County Sheriff does a good job."

Rose says, no matter what happens with the resolution Thursday evening, residents can expect changes to come to the Sheriff's Department, at least in the form of body cameras at some point.

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