Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

The Race to Curb Speeding in Milwaukee

Despite recent dangerous crashes, Milwaukee Police are not making changes to the department’s vehicle pursuit policy, officials say.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - May 17th, 2019 11:11 am
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This home on the corner of North 13th Street and West Capitol Drive in now vacant after a vehicle being chased by Milwaukee police crashed into it, starting a fire. The driver of the fleeing vehicle died in the crash. Photo by Edgar Mendez/NNS.

This home on the corner of North 13th Street and West Capitol Drive in now vacant after a vehicle being chased by Milwaukee police crashed into it, starting a fire. The driver of the fleeing vehicle died in the crash. Photo by Edgar Mendez/NNS.

If you were on social media over the weekend, you probably saw the video.

A stolen Ford Escape tumbling end-over-end on North 45th and West Center Street after rear-ending a taxi and striking a pole — with police in hot pursuit.

The incident was just one in a string of headline-grabbing police chases that ended violently this spring — three of them fatal, with one involving a Milwaukee County sheriff.

Many of the crashes, including the one on Center, had unintended victims, whether it was through injury or having their property damaged. And as the chaotic scenes play out across the city, some residents fear becoming victims of high-speed chases and wonder whether they are the best way to stem crime.

“Pursuits do more harm than good, and innocent people are getting hurt,” said Arnold Peabody, a Milwaukee resident who wants the chases to stop.

Others worry about the impact it would have if police stopped the pursuits.

“You don’t want innocent people in harm’s way, but at the same time if people know you can’t pursue them, then it could turn into the Wild Wild West real quick,” said Seth LaPalm, who lives on Milwaukee’s South Side.

MPD response

The Milwaukee Police Department reiterated this week that it will not be making changes to its pursuit policy, citing nine weekend pursuits that resulted in 11 arrests and netted illegal drugs and three guns.

“The Milwaukee Police Department is committed to reducing reckless driving and making the city a safe place to live, work and raise a family,” a statement released by the MPD said.

Gretchen Schuldt, executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, said there is no proof that the department’s pursuit policy is increasing safety.

“The Milwaukee Police Department needs to make sure it is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of officers and civilians, including innocent third parties, who might be injured in police chases. So far we don’t have evidence of that,” Schuldt wrote in an email to NNS.

Chases on the rise

Aside from the high-profile nature of recent police pursuits, chases in general have been increasing in Milwaukee, according to a report released in April by the Fire and Police Commission. The report showed that police chases increased from 369 to 940 from 2017 to 2018, with more than one-fourth of those chases resulting in accidents.

The increased numbers coincide with a 2015 stiffening of the pursuit policy that allowed pursuits to occur in incidents involving reckless driving or drug dealing. Sixty-seven percent of police chases last year began because of reckless driving,  according to the 2018 City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Vehicle Pursuit Report.

The number of vehicle pursuits had dipped to just 50 in 2012, two years after MPD limited its pursuit policy to incidents that only involved a violent felony after several police chase deaths occurred. The change in policy resulted in an atmosphere where criminals assumed that police wouldn’t give chase, some observers said.

Solutions?

Ald. Bob Donovan, who supported stiffening the chase policy in 2015, remains steadfast that the solution is not to end pursuits. During a recent radio interview with WTMJ, he said people forget how bad things got when police stopped chasing.

“The mobile drug cars, the reckless driving, the running red lights, the speeding,” said Donovan, recalling the atmosphere in Milwaukee during that time period.

Local leaders also are concerned about the pursuits, which are part of the reason why a new youth-led anti-carjacking and reckless driving campaign from the city, in partnership with Ignite Media, Running Rebels and Unite MKE, is being launched next week, said Reggie Moore, executive director of the Office of Violence Prevention.

In addition, the City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force is set to meet for the first time on Friday, May 17 at City Hall.

Among the topics likely to be discussed during that meeting and the Fire and Police Commission meeting is whether there are new police pursuit technologies that could help improve safety.

“It’s a no-win situation for the police and the community,” said Phillip Harris, who lives near the home on West Capitol Drive that burst into flames and was heavily damaged last month after a police chase resulted in the death of a man who fled officers.

“No one wants crime and no one wants innocent people to get hurt or to lose their property,” he said.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

One thought on “The Race to Curb Speeding in Milwaukee”

  1. Paul Mozina says:

    Thanks Edgar! According to Legistar, the first meeting of the City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force was on April 15. https://milwaukee.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx These meetings are not being officially recorded and it doesn’t look like they will even be publishing minutes. The Enforcement and Accountability SubCommittee met on May 9th and the Engineering Solutions Sub-Committee met on May 17th.

    Listen to the discussion during the ACCOUNTABILITY and ENFORCEMENT SubCommittee that took place on May 9th.

    https://1drv.ms/u/s!AoGhDn8qu6nxkUGw1BCYQfRmIrBn

    At the 34:38 mark

    Assistant District Attorney Joy Hammond:

    “Part of the problem, and I guess we’re here to speak openly right, is the enforcement of orders that they’re putting in place. We’re in a bit of a battle right now. I’m going to be honest. We’re in a bit of a battle, and the Courts put in place the services and the accountability — whether I agree with it that its the right level or not doesn’t matter — the Courts still put an order in and I don’t know anything about how that’s going until something bad happens. And that’s kind of the way it works. Again, I don’t want to get into too much of it now but, it is a problem. It is a problem right now so as far as the accountability even once they’re convicted of a particular crime, there’s still and accountability problem.”

    Nicole Yunk Todd Milwaukee Youth Services:

    “When you say accountability can you describe what you mean? Accountability by whom?”

    Assistant District Attorney Joy Hammond:

    “There is some questioning as to what probation’s position is, and what their role is um I’m really… I don’t want to say all that much as far as what’s going on, there is problems, we have some issues going on right now and these are affecting very deeply some of the things that are happening as far as accountability goes for the particular ones that are placed in different programs. We have some good things starting up and I’m pretty optimistic umm its still a day to day struggle.”

    What is the nature of the “battle” between the Courts and Probations? What would it look like if all of the orders from the courts were enforced? What are the orders from the Courts that are not being enforced?

    The Engineering Solutions Subcommittee met on May 17 and here is a link to the audio:
    https://1drv.ms/u/s!AoGhDn8qu6nxkinWPPIzaMgzWzP8

    MPD was not represented at this meeting to discuss Engineering. Alderman Murphy did open the discussion to include representatives from Youth Justice Milwaukee. I got a chance to speak too and asked about the wisdom of using stop-sticks, which had been briefly mentioned earlier in the meeting. There was no interest shown by the committee to discuss the use of stop-strips at that time. It is part of the “Engineering” Toolbox and it is crazy dangerous and should be reviewed. Check out this video posted by Vaun Mayes showing the MPD member throwing the stop-stick in front of the vehicle on 44th/Center. The car crashed immediately after encountering the stop-stick. https://www.facebook.com/YungLz/videos/10157165044052394/

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