Milwaukee officials react to Fire and Police Commission's pursuit policy directive

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-17 19:21:01-04

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has 10 days to make changes to the department's vehicle pursuit policy, or he could face consequences.

The City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission issued a directive last week stating that MPD's current chase policy threatens public safety.

The current policy states that police officers can only initiate a pursuit if the officer believes a violent offense has occurred. But the commission said criminals are taking advantage of that policy, knowing that police more than likely won't come after them.

"Speeding, reckless driving, passing on the right, running red lights, it's out of control," said Alderman Bob Donovan, who represents Milwaukee's 8th District.

For years, Donovan has spoken out against the policy, saying it allows criminals to operate in the city without consequences.

"We have evidence directly coming from criminals who admit they come up here from Chicago to commit horrendous crimes here in Milwaukee because they know the police won't chase them," Donovan said.

According to statistics mentioned in the commission's directive, between January and May of this year, there has been a 160 percent increase in the number of hit-and-run deaths compared to the same time period last year.

Additionally, there were over 600 vehicles each month fleeing from officers during traffic stops.

Some of the changes the commission wants to see in the policy include creating a list of vehicles known to conduct mobile drug dealing and allowing officers to pursue those vehicles.

They also want an amendment allowing officers to pursue cars if the driver is recklessly driving, speeding and not stopping at red lights.

State law says that the chief has to implement the directive unless it's overruled in writing by the mayor.

"I'll be meeting with the police chief, I'll be meeting with the director of the Fire and Police Commission to make sure we're doing the right thing," said Mayor Tom Barrett. "I want to see what's happening nationally, I want to see what's happening from a safety standpoint."

A representative with the police department said Flynn wasn't available to comment on the directive Monday, but at a recent public meeting regarding the policy, he said he did not intend to change it. Those comments were made prior to the directive coming out.

If he doesn't comply with the directive, he could face disciplinary action including discharge, suspension without pay or reduction in rank.

Mike Crivello, the president of the Milwaukee Police Association, responded to the directive in a Facebook post saying:

Last night the Fire and Police Commission delivered a very stern directive to Chief Flynn – the FPC made it perfectly clear that their review absolutely dictates that the current pursuit policy is not providing safer streets/communities and it (the policy) must be changed.

It is fantastic that there FINALLY is a movement to correct the failed policy.  Unfortunately, through stubborn hardheaded – politically motivated decisions, good citizens have lost their lives by way of a failed experiment. 

This office shared dire concern and warned of the tragic results that would become the consequence – we began that plea immediately upon the chief’s misguided conciliation policy change SEVEN YEARS ago.  Few at City Hall listened, and even fewer cared.  I remind, the policy that was in place demanded due regard of our professional police officers – while solid check-n-balance procedures were in place. 

Once the community of criminals reasoned that they could operate with impunity as long they conducted their illicit business from vehicles – mayhem accelerated and continues to escalate today.  With fatal accidents, reckless driving, and unfettered drug running… change is needed!

Is simply changing the policy enough, or should we be reexamining the policy creator’s tenure?   The chief administers discipline to his officers relative to the degree of harm the violation had caused.  This policy, I would argue, can be directly correlated to loss of innocent lives.  Degree of harm… obvious?