Jeramey Jannene

New Body Camera Policy Won’t Apply During RNC

Community advocates decry decision, including lack of public comment.

By - May 25th, 2023 07:44 am
Police body camera. Photo by Ryan Johnson, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Police body camera. Photo by Ryan Johnson, (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

A new Milwaukee Police Department policy that expedites the release of body camera footage from police shootings and other critical incidents won’t be in effect during the 2024 Republican National Convention.

The Fire & Police Commission, at the request of Police Chief Jeffrey Norman, suspended the policy from July 12-26, 2024. The convention itself runs from July 15 through July 18.

Norman made the request because of what he said are potential conflicts with the policies of outside law enforcement agencies that will help guard the convention. The city is expecting up to 4,500 outside officers, paid for by a federal grant, could be needed to secure the event and its 50,000 attendees.

Adopted in April, the FPC policy, with no exceptions, requires footage of critical incidents to be released to victims and their families within 48 hours and to the public within 15 days. For more than a year, the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression (MAARPR) pushed for all critical incident videos to be released within 48 hours. The prior, unwritten practice by MPD was to release videos within 45 days as part of a “community briefing” video.

But even though the new policy formally went into effect on May 1, it’s already on the shelf. The Milwaukee Police Association, the union for rank-and-file officers, sued under the argument that it wasn’t established as part of collective bargaining. Judge Frederick Rosa granted an injunction, temporarily blocking the policy’s implementation. Hearings in the case are scheduled for June 28 and August 14.

After a 6-3 vote to suspend the policy during the RNC, commission chair Edward Fallone said it doesn’t mean the commission is backing away from the measure.

“The commission still fully embraces the wisdom and necessity of [the policy]. We’re simply reacting to a request from our police chief that will assist him in preparing for security and a successful Republican National Convention,” said Fallone during the May 18 meeting.

Vice-chair Amanda Avalos and commissioners Bree Spencer and Dana World-Patterson voted in opposition to the suspension. Spencer and World-Patterson said they wanted more information.

No public comment was taken before the vote. Fallone said two commissioners had to leave early and wouldn’t have been able to vote if comment was taken. After voting, Ruben Burgos and Miriam Horwitz left the meeting.

The decision not to take public comment was vehemently criticized by the Coalition to March on the RNC.

“This resolution was drafted during closed-door meetings with MPD, and without input from the public. When the time came for public input, the FPC rearranged public comment on the agenda so it came after the vote,” said Omar Flores, coalition co-chair and member of MAARPR, in a statement. “The FPC promotes itself as a body that holds police accountable. Letting the police draft resolutions behind closed doors with no public input is not in line with their purpose.”

“Despite these obvious early attempts by Mayor [Cavalier Johnson], the police, and the Republican Party to intimidate organizers, we will lead a march on the first day of the convention within sight and sound of the RNC at the Wisconsin Center. We will not back down; we will be seen and we will be heard,” said coalition national spokesperson Tom Burke.

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Related Legislation: FPC211131

One thought on “New Body Camera Policy Won’t Apply During RNC”

  1. ZeeManMke says:

    What a surprise that two members ran away after the meeting. They do not want to be held accountable for how they voted. What does the mayor have to say about this? Nothing? Basically, if you strip away the nonsense, this was a secret policy voted on in a secret meeting with members running away and the mayor having nothing to say. That is how they operate in North Korea. That is where we are in Milwaukee today. There is no difference.

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