Milwaukee FPC defers vote on changes to MPD chokehold procedures

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (FPC) on Thursday deferred a vote on potential changes to police use of force procedures, specifically chokeholds, until May 6.

The commission is hoping for more public participation, having received only three public comments, during Thursday's session. Additionally, the full board was not present and the FPC wants the opportunity for the city attorney's office to review the opinion.

The discussion of neck restraints has been pushed to the forefront with former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin at trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd.

At Thursday's regularly scheduled meeting, the FPC board plan discussed and considered a resolution that would modify or eliminate the deadly force exception to the current ban on chokeholds and strangleholds.

"It’s a really big discussion," said Ion Menn, assistant law professor at UW-Madison. "A lot of jurisdictions, if they still permit it in some fashion, are definitely revisiting it now."

The FPC said, under current procedure, officers are not allowed to use chokeholds or strangleholds unless the officer reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

Meyn said chokeholds should not be used: "With chokeholds, it becomes too easy to use and abused."

Private investigator Polly Looper, a former Wisconsin police officer, said police policies should be reviewed but that the review should not happen just because it is a hot topic.

"If you have to stop to think in a moment whether they need to save their life or the citizens' lives or other people around them, if they’re following a policy or not, that’s very dangerous," Looper said. "What I would say is table this: You know, let’s review it monthly and talk about it. Let’s see what other things and information we can glean from other situations, other departments."

Acting Chief Jeffrey Norman said the Milwaukee Police Department has no objection to the resolution as written as it pertains to chokeholds only when an officer feels their life is in danger or the public is in danger.

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