Milwaukee FPC clarifies reckless driver police chase policy

We’ve all probably seen reckless driving out on Milwaukee streets.

Inside City Hall Thursday night, the Fire and Police Commission amended standard operating procedures for police, making it clear Milwaukee police are authorized to chase reckless drivers in a hot pursuit.

It’s something police say they’ve been doing in practice since getting FPC approval in 2017 – the vote just clears up a potential gray area.

"This is cleaning up that gray area that if I’m going to try to stop you because you have a burnt out tail lamp and suddenly you start to drive recklessly, now the officer will be allowed to pursue that vehicle, and in practice we've been doing that," said Lt. Michael Kurowski.

"This is really important right now because pursuing reckless drivers is really the primary tool that officers have to apprehend people who are engaged in reckless driving and hold them accountable," said Leon Todd.

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It’s clear to many people in Milwaukee that reckless driving is a problem.

"You see crazy, crazy driving around here," said Milwaukee resident John Drzewiecki. "Go around the wrong side of medians, just speeding and cutting through."

Finding a solution isn’t as obvious.

"Red lights are a mere suggestion, they really don’t stop," he said. "I don’t think there’s any one policy that will ever solve that. I think it’s a bunch of things."

"We continue to prioritize reckless driving," said MPD Chief of Staff Nick DeSiato. "In terms of a hot pursuit to effectively combat reckless driving, it’s just a necessary tool."

During public comment at Thursday's meeting, one person did voice concerns about danger associated with police pursuits, pointing to a recent police chase of a reckless driver that ended in a rollover crash and injuries.

FPC commissioners say they hope to clear up any misconceptions about the policy.

"I was having this conversation literally a couple weeks ago we were talking about reckless driving and a number of people said, ‘police can’t chase anymore that’s why they’re driving recklessly," said FPC Commissioner Lanelle Ramey. 

"I think adopting the proposed changes to the SOP will help clear up some of the misconception in public, because it does make it more clear that hot pursuit is authorized in instances of reckless driving," said FPC Chair Edward Fallone.