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MPD's K9 unit the subject of heated exchange between acting police chief and alderman

MPD welcomes new K9 officer
Posted at 6:04 PM, Oct 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-22 19:04:37-04

MILWAUKEE — There was a heated exchange Thursday between Acting Milwaukee Police Chief Michael Brunson and Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey.

It was centered around the topic of Milwaukee K9 Officers, during the City of Milwaukee’s Public Health and Safety Committee meeting,

Alderman Rainey wants the Fire and Police Commission to disallow the Milwaukee Police Department from deploying K9’s as a use of force. The police chief says K9s are an important public safety tool, that are not used in the way Rainey is suggesting.

Rainey compared the way MPD uses K9’s, to the way they were used during the Civil Rights Era and in Nazi Germany - as a tool to scare and attack innocent people. Brunson took offense to that.

“I would appreciate if actual facts were obtained before saying something like that,” Brunson said. “I was pretty disturbed by the correlation he’s making. We don’t use K9s proactively to use force on anyone. They can’t be used in a protest-type situation. So, the insinuation that was made, in my opinion, is inflammatory.”

“Your defiance to me is kind of bizarre,” Alderman Rainey responded. “My intentions were not to insult you or the Milwaukee Police Department, but to think that in 2020, despite all the tools and technology we have, we still feel it’s necessary to use the barbaric tactic and practice of deploying a dog, that’s akin to a wolf, on our residents. It’s long time we discontinue this practice. Take a moral stand as a department and say we don’t want to do this anymore, and set a precedent in our country.”

Rainey wants to know how many Milwaukee Police Officers, who handle the K9s, are black. He also wants to know the race of people K9s are most commonly used in the City of Milwaukee.

Acting Chief Brunson says he will compile and provide that information. He did share that so far in 2020, MPD has deployed K9s 420 times. Out of all those times, one citizen was bitten. In 2019, K9s were deployed 999 times, and again, one citizen was bitten.

“The fact is, the use of force by a canine is a very rare event,” Brunson said. They serve a valuable purpose for us as an agency.”

According to Brunson, MPD can only deploy a K9 unit if it’s a felony crime, or a misdemeanor involving a weapon. He says they are predominantly used in searching for drugs, guns, and dangerous suspects hiding from police.

Milwaukee’s Public Health and Safety Committee did pass Rainey’s motion for the Fire and Police Commission to consider disallowing MPD from deploying K9s as a use of force. However, aldermen Mark Borkowski and Scott Spiker were against the measure.

“I don’t want to be signing my name to something that would put officers or subjects in greater danger,” Ald. Spiker said.

It still needs to be discussed by Milwaukee’s full Common Council, before it goes further.

Dale Bormann, the President of the Milwaukee Police Association released a statement that says in part, “Alderman Khalif Rainey’s comparison of the Milwaukee Police Deparment’s K-9 unit tot he canines that were used by ‘Nazi Germany’ is uncalled for… the K9 unit not only protects the lives or the citizens of Milwaukee, they also provide a value service to the department and the community as a whole… You and your fellow alderpersons should be ashamed of yourselves… Milwaukee Police Association DEMANDS an apology for the men and women that we REPRESENT and our you insensitivity to the Jewish Community.”

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