Fire, Police Commission to discuss changes to MPD's "use of force" policy

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission met Thursday night, November 1st, and among the items up for discussion was changes in Milwaukee Police Department's "use of force policy." The focus was on providing more detail on "use of force" situations, which could help track officers with a concerning history and could protect police better if complaints are filed against them.

The Commission Thursday discussed potential changes for how police proceed and what is recorded when it comes to "use of force" situations -- including the reporting of bodily force, such as an officer's trained kick or punch to a person's body. Currently, that kind of force is only reported when the person on the receiving end is injured.

"More documentation isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think in situations where force is used by the police department, it's important that we document it," Milwaukee Assistant Police Chief James Harpole said.

The Commission is also looking to get details of so-called "take-downs" -- the process of taking a person to the ground as a result of an arrest. That's also not currently reported unless accompanied by an injury.

"It's going to give a better idea of the scope of the use of force by the department," Chris Ahmuty with the ACLU of Wisconsin said.

"Capturing a lot of this data will go a long way towards increasing accountability and transparency," Mike Tobin with the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission said.

A final suggestion was to make it an officer's duty to intervene if he or she observes a misuse of force.

"The requirement to intervene -- we've already got that in our core competency. That's courage core two in our code of conduct," Harpole said.

Proposed changes to MPD's "use of force policy" come following an incident in April when some alleged police brutality during an arrest in downtown Milwaukee was caught on camera.

In April, Jeffrey Strasser was arrested by Milwaukee police after they say he was speeding down Juneau Avenue in a black Lamborghini. A criminal complaint indicates at one point, the Lamborghini was estimated to be traveling 60 miles-per-hour in a 30 mile-per-hour zone. Strasser did not pull over for officers in pursuit.

Eventually, the exotic car pulled into a parking lot at Juneau and Water. The complaint says Strasser refused to unlock the car at first. Once the door opened up, he also refused to show his hands. The complaint says that's when Strasser was physically removed from the car and placed under arrest.

The incident was captured on cell phone video. The video shows Strasser being struck by an officer after Strasser was removed from the car.

Milwaukee police later concluded concluded Officer Eric Ratzmann was justified in the use of focused strikes to Strasser. No citizen complaint was ever filed regarding the arrest. Police said Officer Ratzmann would receive policy training regarding the use of profanity during the incident.

Criminal defense attorney Robin Shellow has represented Strasser throughout his court proceedings. She believes force should never be used.

"We should report force. Let's try a new sheet of paper -- no more force against citizens. If there are exceptions to that, then maybe the exceptions should be written down," Shellow said.

Shellow told FOX6 News she does not believe these new policies will make a difference when it comes to MPD's use of force incidents.

Strasser's case is still in the justice system. His final pre-trial is scheduled for January 9th, with his jury trial set to start six days later.