In response to FPC directive, MPD releases video detailing use of tear gas during 6 'civil disturbances'

The Milwaukee Police Department on Tuesday evening, Aug. 4 released a video in response to a directive from the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission "to provide a full, public and accurate explanation of the use of tear gas and large volumes of oleorsein capsicum spray during peaceful disturbances and the situations that warrant those tactics." The directive had a Tuesday deadline. In the video, MPD's assistant chief details six instances in which chemical irritants were used between May 29 and June 23. Four of those involved police districts.

During the period of unrest, MPD Assistant Chief Michael Brunson said in the video there was a 300% increase in ShotSpotter alerts, noting it was a "very dangerous period of time for the citizens of our community and the members of our police department." Chief Morales noted at least 100 protests during this period.

MPD released this statement, along with the video:

"In response to Directive #1(f.), the Milwaukee Police Department is providing a “full, public and accurate explanation” of the use of chemical irritants during recent civil disturbances."

"Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 910 – Civil Disturbance and Crowd Management was approved by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission on March 5, 2020. This SOP defines a civil disturbance as an unlawful assembly that constitutes a breach of the peace or any assembly of persons where there is potential of imminent danger of collective violence, destruction of property, or other unlawful acts. These are typically, but not always, spontaneous occurrences requiring the emergency mobilization of police forces and related emergency services." 

"Over the course of the past several months, there have been at least 100 protests in the City of Milwaukee; however, there have been 6 instances when members of the Milwaukee Police Department have had to use chemical irritants to disperse unruly crowds."

Below is a breakdown of all six of the incidents detailed in the video by MPD Assistant Chief Brunson:

May 29, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

May 29, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

Brunson said citizen behavior on this night included reckless driving, bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at officers and multiple shots fired from across the street in a parking lot. 

Meanwhile, a number of citizens tried to rush towards the building while making threats to officers, Brunson said.

He said businesses in the area were looted, and large chunks of concrete, debris, bricks, bottles and fireworks were thrown at officers.

Brunson said "gas was deployed in order to call citizens to disperse to try to bring a level of safety to that area after multiple citizens were put in danger, including police officers."

According to Brunson, no citizens reported injuries from this incident. One officer was shot in the foot while trying to address traffic clogging up Locust Street, and a second was treated for a concussion -- struck in the head with a piece of concrete.

May 30, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 7 near 36th Street and Fond du Lac Avenue

May 30, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 7 near 36th Street and Fond du Lac Avenue

With a curfew in effect, Brunson said this night saw a large crowd on foot and in vehicles, with people blocking traffic, throwing rocks, bottles and projectiles at officers standing in front of the police district.

Brunson also noted stores ni the immediate area were looted, and "individuals engaged in riotous behavior, using traffic cones to create barricades as officers tried to prevent them from moving towards them."

He said "less lethal munitions used" in front of D7 included OC irritant, and noted no "CS gas" was used.

Brunson said no citizens reported injuries from this incident. One officer suffered a dislocated shoulder while struggling with a citizen, he said.

May 31, 11:40 p.m., MPD District 7 near 5th Street and Locust Street

May 31, 11:40 p.m., MPD District 7 near 5th Street and Locust Street

Brunson estimated the crowd on this night at 1,500 people on foot and in vehicles, noting reckless driving, with people blocking traffic in both directions. He said citizens began climbing on the roof of the nearby Burger King restaurant and starting fires in the parking lot of the restaurant and the Fast and Friendly convenience store across the street from the police district.

He said citizens also threw rocks, bottles and fireworks and numerous shots were fired in the area. 

He added that people attempted to break through the police line that was there in an effort to protect the building and the squad cars in the lot, with one person shouting, "Burn it down."

Brunson said chemical irritants were used "to stop the citizens' actions."

No citizens reported injuries, and no officers were hurt, he said.

June 2, 7 p.m., 6th Street and McKinley Avenue

June 2, 7 p.m., 6th Street and McKinley Avenue

On this evening, Brunson said approximately 200 gathered on foot, along with 50 vehicles -- with citizens blocking police and civilian vehicles, striking squad cars and throwing rocks, bottles and asphalt. He said one person was seen urinating in an empty water bottle.

Warnings were given for the crowd to disperse, Brunson said, and an unlawful assembly was declared.

At this point, Brunson said citizens continued throwing objects at officers and refused to leave the area despite the "numerous and repeated warnings."

Brunson said smoke and OC gas were used in this incident.

June 4, 3:20 a.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

June 4, 3:20 a.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

As a crowd estimated at approximately 100 people and 20 vehicles gathered in the area, Brunson noted reckless driving, with people laying in the street, impeding travel. He said citizens climbed on police vehicles and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks at police personnel.

He said shots were fired in the parking lot across from the police district, and a vehicle that was part of the crowd fled, striking a citizen and two police officers. All three were hurt. That driver was later arrested. 

Brunson said smoke was used in that incident.

June 23, 4 p.m. 40th Street and Lloyd Street

According to Brunson, a crowd of 250 to 300 gathered following a "citizen-initiated investigation into two missing teenage girls the crowd believed were located in residence in that area.

Police initially "responded without armor to present soft approach," Brunson said, "believing possibly the crowd was reacting to officers on scene as they were jeering officers, using profanity towards officers," etc.

As the missing investigation was wrapping up, Brunson said a crowd rushed forward in front of a house in the area and began to enter it -- destroying items in the house and setting it on fire. 

Brunson noted multiple arsons during this incident, and also said bricks, bottles, boards and construction debris were thrown at officers.

Three people were shot in this incident. 

After three to four hours, Brunson said the crowd refused to leave, and there was reckless driving and cruising.

That night, some returned and the house was set on fire again, and bricks and bottles were again thrown at officers, along with fireworks -- with shots fired in the area, Brunson said.

Eight officers were hurt during the chaos, and Brunson noted that the officers "showed a lot of restraint."

MPD assistant chief defends use of tear gas

After laying out those six incidents, Brunson in the video discusses the definitions of civil disturbance and unlawful assembly -- noting the later is an "assembly that consists of three or more persons and that causes a disturbance of public order that's reasonable to believe it will cause injury or damage to property unless immediately dispersed."

Brunson noted attempts to quell the crowd in many of these instances -- adding that there were attempts made to reach out to community organizers to get them to calm the crowd. 

He said what we saw during these six incidents "was the type of behavior that would likely cause injury to citizens, and in some cases did."

The assistant chief added that "the MPD has absolutely no problem with peaceful protesting," and "we do not use chemical irritants toward peaceful protesters" encouraging citizens to exercise their rights "within the confines of the law." He said if there's a gathering that "begins to devolve into the type of behavior and conduct talked about here," warnings will be given, and those who remain on scene may be subject to arrest.

Chief Morales, noting the FPC's directive indicated he should work to amend SOP to discontinue use of these chemicals said, "A peaceful civil disturbance does not exist." 

Chief Morales speaks out on 11 FPC directives

Earlier Tuesday, from the Democratic National Convention, to the directives due, Chief Morales spoke out about the challenges he's facing.

Officials with the FPC said the 11 directives were handed down in an effort to increase accountability and transparency. The chief says the work to gather data and meet deadlines hasn't been easy. 

"We are under scrutiny and under attack that I felt the need to obtain an attorney, Frank Gimbel, to help us during these times," said Morales.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, Attorney Frank Gimbel

Chief Morales was joined by Gimble Tuesday as he addressed the 11 directives.

"It is consuming on my executive staff and some of my other staff," said Morales. "It's pushing us offline to do what, as I would say, to deal with some of the issues that are going on in the city of Milwaukee."

Morales was ordered to fulfill the FPC'S directives, or he could lose his job.

"We responded to directives as of last week," said Morales. "We had within seven days of the directives to hand over certain items which we have, to date, complied."

Democratic National Convention

Morales said the department is also focused on preparing the DNC in Milwaukee.

"The DNC, we're still under the national spotlight," said Morales. "We have to prepare the security for that. We're going to continue. That changes on a regular basis depending on who's coming and who doesn't come."

Morales said the department is working on the best way to secure the convention.

 "We're still going to have potential protests that come from it that need to be monitored," said Morales.

The FPC is next scheduled to meet on Thursday.

'It's there to protect the community:' FPC, chief to discuss directive calling for no more tear gas

With his job potentially on the line, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales again meets with the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Thursday, 10 days after 11 directives were handed down and days after more than 100 departments said they won't respond to the DNC.

'Maybe the National Guard:' Chief may request help with 100+ police departments pulling out of DNC

Following news that more than 100 police departments won't be responding to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, the city's police chief said he's prepared to seek state or federal assistance.