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Questions about Milwaukee police pursuit policy arise following chase that left 7 injured

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Posted at 4:27 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 19:21:36-04

MILWAUKEE — Seven people are recovering after multiple crashes involving a reckless driver and a Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) squad car.

The crash happened Monday right outside Sharon Barnes’ home. It was a near miss for a Milwaukee grandmother who has seen her home hit four times by out of control drivers.

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Sharon Barnes point out where vehicles have crashed into her house on Teutonia Avenue.

“A car was flipped over here, a car was flipped over down there,” said Barnes pointing to the road just off her front porch.

The whole incident started around 5 p.m., according to MPD. Officers tried to pull a vehicle over with no license plate who was driving recklessly. The driver originally pulled over, but then took off and police chased the suspect. Milwaukee police officers crashed into a vehicle near Capitol and Teutonia by Barnes’ home, nearly missing it. The suspect car crashed into two other vehicles.

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Since Barnes moved in nine years ago, her home has been hit four times. She was not mincing words when it comes to how people drive down Teutonia Avenue.

“Fast as hell. I don’t even sit out here no more. No, I’m not trying to lose my life like that,” said Barnes.

During that same incident, a MPD squad pursing the 19-year-old suspect hit one car. It left seven people injured, including two police officers. Barnes says she doesn’t want to see police chasing vehicles down Teutonia Avenue.

“Not down this street, it is too busy,” said Barnes.

According to the most recent MPD data, between January and June of 2021, 75 percent of MPD police chases were started because the officers were pursuing someone driving recklessly.

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Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Police Association

“I think last night shows the disconnect with some drivers and the recklessness of their actions and the officers that have to make a split second decision to chase them for the recklessness of their actions,” said Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Police Association.

Five years ago, there was a change to the Milwaukee police pursuit policy. It used to be police could only chase a vehicle if there was a violent felony. That was known as the non-pursuit policy. It was the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission that forced MPD to go back to pursing suspects, because the number of reckless drivers had nearly quadrupled under the non-pursuit policy.

“When he changed it from a pursuit policy to a non-pursuit policy, right in the beginning we were right around 300 pursuits. Towards the end of that, when the public outcry came, we were well over 1,600 to 1,700 what they call non-pursuits, where officers had to shut off their lights and let reckless drivers go,” said Wagner.

The Milwaukee Police Union does not want to see the policy go back to not pursuing reckless drivers. However, some major cities have policies limiting police chases including Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta and more recently Cincinnati.

Barnes says all she wants is to feel safe on her sidewalk.

“It is scary. I got grandkids. I can’t have them out here,” said Barnes.

The investigation into the crash is now in the hands of the Waukesha Police Department. The two officers involved were put on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation into the pursuit.

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