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Milwaukee Common Council passes 'I can't breathe' resolution and exploration of MPD budget cut

Posted at 7:51 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 06:20:00-04

Change was at the heart of Tuesday's Common Council meeting in the City of Milwaukee.

The council had a packed agenda including multiple items geared toward law enforcement reform. The efforts follow weeks of protests in Milwaukee.

"Let’s not trash the entire department but yes we need reform we’re going to get reform and this counsel is going to lead the charge," said 11th District Alderman Mark Borkowski.

"I hope the police department understands that these conversation points are not attacks. They’re just simply not. This is a re-examination of the relationship between law enforcement and community," said Common Council President Cavalier Johnson.

The council approved an "I can't breathe" resolution. It is named after some of George Floyd's last words before he died while in custody.

The resolution urges the Fire and Police Commission to adopt a policy in which if a person in custody states they are unable to breathe officers must ask if they need medical attention.

"If someone says they can’t breathe you have to let them go you have to give them some air. You have to let them live so they can have their day in court," said 15th District Alderman Russell Stamper who also introduced the resolution.

Common Council also passed a resolution directing the budget director to show what a 10 percent cut to the police department could look like.

Many council members say reallocating money could help services that are lacking support, whether it is mental health or violence prevention. In turn, council members discussed the shakeup may ultimately help officers.

"I think this is an excellent exercise in gathering information being able to bring it back to our constituents in adequate time to actually inform and impact the budget process," said 4th District Alderman Robert Bauman.

The common council also voted unanimously to hold off on approving Mayor Tom Barrett's cabinet picks saying they need to hear how each person plans to fight systemic racism.

"The intention here, truly, is to get people to think a little bit differently about what more they should be doing. Because for us truly to change conditions in this city, it is going to take more from all of us. Not just elected officials, not just the police," said 6th District Alderwoman Milele Coggs who introduced the motion.

The mayor later responded with a statement saying: “Every individual I have nominated is committed to equity and racial justice throughout our city. We are eager to share with council members the work we have been doing and how we can work together to transform the city.”

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