Milwaukee police union voices chokehold ban concerns

The Milwaukee Police Association (MPA) on Friday, May 7 called the police oversight body's decision to completely ban chokeholds disappointing and said that officers should be able to protect themselves in life or death situations.

After months of back and forth, the Fire and Police Commission (FPC) unanimously approved to update the Milwaukee Police Department's use of force policy on Thursday. Now, restraints of any kind that restrict oxygen or blood to the head are banned, without exception.

The Milwaukee Police Department said it respects the decision of the city's Fire and Police Commission (FPC) to ban neck restraints of any kind, outright. Proponents applaud the FPC's for listening to the people, while some use-of-force experts are concerned there isn't a carve-out for instances of life or death situations.

"It’s the right thing to do. So many folks have been standing up, calling for change," said State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee).

Bowen called it the right decision and said the FPC is listening to residents' wishes.

"We have a police department, locally, that doesn’t train that. We have many police departments that say they don’t train officers to do that," Bowen said. "That means if officers are using that method, which we have seen, we need to ensure that there are real consequences for using that method."

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The MPA said the FPC voted in a way that appeases citizens and social groups wanting chokeholds eliminated – saying standard operating procedures should mirror state law, and protection should officers need to use a chokehold in a life or death situation.

"To ban them, in other than deadly force circumstances, is reasonable," said Bob Willis, Wisconsin use of force expert.

As a use-of-force expert, Willis noted chokeholds aren't trained though, echoing concerns raised by the union.

"It concerns me that someone would issue a ban on an officer saving his own life. That’s just ridiculous. Most places around the country who have ‘banned’ the chokehold have carved out that deadly force exception," Willis said.

The Milwaukee Police Department told FOX6 News that it appreciates the opportunity to have continued dialogue on important issues, and it remains committed to partnering with the community and law enforcement stakeholders, ensuring public safety in the city of Milwaukee.

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