Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Barrett Calls For Police To Stop All Chokeholds

Decision rests with powerful Fire & Police Commission.

By - Jun 18th, 2020 08:14 pm
Mayor Barrett speaking at a June 5th, 2020 protest march. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Barrett speaking at a June 5th, 2020 protest march. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett is calling for a change in Milwaukee Police Department policy.

In a letter to the seven members of the Fire & Police Commission, Barrett called for revised standard operating procedures to be adopted that would ban the use of chokeholds by police officers.

The independent commission is often referred to as one of the most powerful in the country for its ability to set public safety procedures, hire and fire chiefs and issue discipline.

“As Commissioners, you have the responsibility of representing our city’s residents and ensuring that they have access to the highest quality fire and police services possible. You also have the tremendous responsibility of protecting the rights and safety of residents served by these critical services. You are a very important voice for Milwaukee residents,” wrote Barrett in a letter sent Thursday.

He said the nation is having a needed reckoning with how policing reflects societal values.

“We can and must take this opportunity to explore and pursue action to increase procedurally just policing in Milwaukee. In light of the horrendous killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we all need to examine different police tactics,” wrote the Mayor.

Barrett, earlier this month, called for MPD to not use tear gas or rubber bullets on protesters unless it is “a very, very, very serious situation.”

His call for chokeholds to be eliminated is without exception.

“Allowing chokeholds in police tactics creates a clear risk to the lives of citizens. These tactics needlessly increase the risk of death or disability in interactions with the police,” he wrote.

Barrett ended his letter by noting that he doesn’t think banning chokeholds is enough. “This will certainly not be the only discussion and action taken around use of force in policing. I look forward to working with you and our residents to improve public safety and policing in Milwaukee,” he wrote.

MPD Inspector Terrence Gordon told a Common Council committee earlier this month that the department does not train individuals in the use of chokeholds.

Barrett, with Common Council confirmation, has appointed all seven members of the commission. According to state law, he can appoint up to nine members, with a minimum of five.

The commission already has a disciplinary investigation related to choking underway. It is leading an investigation of officer Michael Mattioli, who, while off duty, placed Joel Acevedo into a chokehold. Acevedo later died as a result of the incident. Mattiolo also faces a homicide charge from the incident.

A full copy of the letter is available on Urban Milwaukee.

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