A Milwaukee civilian oversight board didn’t mince words, ordering Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn to change the department’s pursuit policy or risk being ousted.
It was nothing short of a stunning directive issued Thursday night by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission.
The commission wasn’t acting in a vacuum. The directive was preceded by public debate and months of study concluding the current policy of pursuing only violent offenders has fostered a culture of reckless driving on city streets.
Friday night, Alderman Michael Murphy applauded the commission’s directive.
“They really took time to listen the citizens, to the other aldermen on the common council and myself,” Murphy said. “They, I think, have made an appropriate decision to make some changes.”
For his part, Flynn wasn’t talking Friday night. The mayor’s office, meantime, said it hadn’t reviewed the directive and didn’t offer any comment.
Flynn, though, has long been resistant to calls for a change in the city’s pursuit policy. The policy on the books now permits police to chase a car driven by a person suspected of a violent felony. Cars linked to nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors aren’t to be pursued.
“It is a balance,” Murphy said in praise of the directive. “We certainly want to protect officers and the public at large but at the same time you see the adverse effects of not enforcing and you see the dangerous situations occurring on the streets with hit and run accidents, more fatalities and just more reckless driving.”
The commission wants police to create a “high-value” target list of vehicles that could be pursued.
Flynn has been ordered to submit a new policy no later than July 27 or face discipline that could include his ouster as chief of police.