Police Reform Needed, Say Council Members
Brown incident proves problem, changes needed, Hamilton, Coggs say at press conference.
“We’re standing here together because we’re having a very important conversation about police-community relations and what it means to try to move forward after a very public and embarrassing incident,” said Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton. He was joined outside of the council chambers by a super-majority of his colleagues to discuss the Milwaukee Police Department’s use of force against Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown.
The issue is getting national headlines, since the MPD released the body camera video of the incident yesterday. Hamilton had led a press conference addressing the issue in a south side parking lot back on January 26th, not long after Brown’s encounter with the police.
Bemoaning what he calls “institutional racism” that he believes exists in every institution in Milwaukee, Hamilton announced that the council would begin introducing legislative and communication files designed to change the behavior of the Milwaukee Police Department. “There has to be a change in behavior,” said the council leader. He said the city needs to address the issue in order to move forward.
“We recognize the historical tensions that exist between minority communities and police departments. Milwaukee is no different from any urban center. But where we do want to be different is our commitment to make change.”
“No excuses, no apologies, no more hashtags, no more multi-million dollar settlements and lawsuits, no more disturbing videos, no more residents of the city of Milwaukee feeling as if they were not treated as human beings by those who are charged with protecting and serving them. These are all things we are working diligently everyday to make happen,” said the sixth district alderwoman.
Hamilton said it was explained to him that part of the reason the video took almost four months to be released was the transition in the chief’s office from Edward A. Flynn to Alfonso Morales. “I’m calling on them to share this information. I don’t think that there’s anything to gain by not sharing,” said Hamilton. The council president said he has seen different angles of the incident from other body cameras, but that the one shared with the media is the best depiction of the incident.
Would the public have known about this incident if it wasn’t an NBA player? Hamilton doesn’t think so, but says that it illustrates the need to create a body camera review process for “average, everyday encounters.” He added: “there are hundreds of everyday encounters like that, I know because I’ve experienced it myself.”
When asked if the officers should be fired, Hamilton said they should never have been hired in the first place. The MPD has said that three of the officers involved were suspended.
The council has limited ability to directly mandate certain actions by the police department, but Hamiton anticipates working with the Fire and Police Commission and MPD to improve the department’s practices.
Ald. Tony Zielinski, the only other council member to speak, told the media he continues to push for state authorization for a two-thirds vote of the Common Council to fire the police and fire chief.
“We feel that if we’re going to get change in this community, the council who is in direct contact with the constituents in the community, needs to have a better say and contact with the police chief. Right now the police chief doesn’t have to pay any attention to us” said the south-side alderman. The council overrode a mayoral veto in November on the matter, instructing the city’s lobbying team to seek authorization for the firing authority.
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