MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- City leaders across the Milwaukee area are speaking out about today's decision not to criminally charge former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manning for fatally shooting Dontre Hamilton.
The city leaders FOX6 News spoke with on Monday, December 22nd, say whether you like the decision or not -- this is something we can all learn from.
"The decision today by District Attorney Chisholm does not in any way diminish the death of Dontre Hamilton and the suffering his family is experiencing," said Mayor Tom Barrett.
At a news conference on Monday morning, the mayor said this decision closes a chapter but will forever be a reminder that we have a lot of work to do to find common ground between police and the community.
"So just as I believe the vast majority of the Milwaukee Police Department officers are good people who are trying to do what's best for society, I believe the vast majority of people who are protesting are doing what they preserve to be best for our society," said Mayor Barrett.
But it's these protests like the one last Friday night that closed down I-43 that has Alderman Bob Donovan upset.
"This apparent war on the police concerns me a lot. I just hope to god that people can take a step back and take a deep breath and behave themselves and realize that the police officers, whether here in Milwaukee or across the nation, are often times a fine line that separates challenged neighborhoods from utter and total chaos and we ought to be thanking our cops for the great job that they do," said Alderman Bob Donovan.
These protesters don't believe that -- they wanted to see former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney charged with murder.
"I firmly believe that the district attorney did his very best to get to the bottom of this. The family has a lot of pain, anyone in their position who lost a child through violent death would be hurting. I think for those people disagreeing with this decision, you can make your voices heard but without hurting other people," said Common Council President, Michael Murphy.
And that's everyone's hope tonight, that if the protesters want to exercise their rights to demonstrate, they do it in a nonviolent way.
Reaction to the decision not to charge Christopher Manney in connection with the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton has been pouring in -- we have full statements below.
Jonathan Safran, attorney for the Hamilton said in a news release the following:
"The Dontre Hamilton shooting death case has now resulted in the Milwaukee County District Attorney adding yet another decision to the list of cases around the country with no criminal charges being filed against a police officer who shot and killed an African American male citizen. After waiting now for almost EIGHT MONTHS since Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed at Red Arrow Park by former City of Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney, the Hamilton family and their attorneys are extremely disappointed in District Attorney John Chisholm’s decision in this case. This is a case which cries out for justice, criminal charges against Christopher Manney, and accountability to Dontre Hamilton’s family.
"Since being advised today of the State law criminal charging decision by District Attorney Chisholm, we have been in contact with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, and we have formally requested that they communicate with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, to immediately commence a federal investigation into this matter, with the belief that Federal law criminal civil rights charges are warranted in this case."
CLICK HERE to read Safran's complete, five-page statement.
Mike Crivello, President of the Milwaukee Police Association released the following statement:
“The Milwaukee Police Association respects and concurs with the decision of the District Attorney’s Office. A thorough investigation aided by expert consultants obviously provided the DA with the necessary information which guided the DA in making the proper decision. Officer Manney’ s actions were reasonable and justified considering the threat – while truly an unfortunate situation, there simply was no other option available”.
The Coalition for Justice, which has been calling for charges against Manney all along, tweeted out the following:
ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty issued the following statement:
"The ACLU of Wisconsin regrets District Attorney Chisholm’s decision because it leaves a cloud of uncertainty over the circumstances of and the responsibility for Mr. Hamilton’s death. If Officer Christopher Manney did not violate the law, then is anyone legally responsible for Mr. Hamilton’s death? Does the criminal law protect individuals like Mr. Hamilton from deadly force exercised by police officers? Are police officers above the law?
"Furthermore, what will the Milwaukee Police Department do to ensure that Milwaukee police officers stop killing unarmed individuals? The MPD needs to find ways to hold officers accountable, so that they will know there will be consequences for their actions.
"City leaders need to continue to work to make sure that the Milwaukee Police Department and all its members work to protect and serve all residents in an unbiased and professional manner."
Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy issued this statement:
"It’s important, in the wake of the district attorney’s decision today, that we recognize first and foremost the pain that continues for the family of Dontre Hamilton. At the heart of this tragedy are a mother who lost her son through a violent death and a family that is missing a loved one in this holiday season. They have suffered for nearly eight months awaiting answers, and our community continues to grieve with them.
"Some members of our community may feel the need to express their feelings in the wake of this decision. Though the family and officer are at the heart of this matter, the community as a whole has been traumatized and continues to try to make sense of this situation. If there are demonstrations or disobedience, I would implore those who participate to express themselves in a manner that does not place members of the public in harm’s way.
"It is everyone’s right to make their voices heard, just as it is everyone’s right to go about their business in safety. My thoughts and prayers go to everyone involved."
Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis issued this statement:
"As Christians, this is a very important time of year for my family, my friends and my community. But as we enter this holy season, the faith community should be questioning the timing of a controversial decision that has had such a traumatic impact on the City of Milwaukee.
"Almost eight months ago, an incident occurred here in the city that caused divides and an unsettled environment that have continued for members of the public and law enforcement. In the months that followed, we saw verdicts come down in other cases of death at the hands of law enforcement elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, we sat and waited patiently for local authorities to address the issue of Dontre Hamilton’s shooting death in Red Arrow Park.
"In a public space, no one should get shot 14 times by anyone, especially here in Milwaukee. The district attorney has had almost eight months to make his decision. But whether his choice today was right or wrong, we have to question why he chose a time three days before Christmas to render this controversial decision.
"Was the timing of this decision influenced by the recent decisions in Ferguson and New York City? Was it influenced by the murder of two law enforcement officers this weekend in Brooklyn? Was it influenced by the civil disobedience that took place on the freeway here in Milwaukee?
"In this holiest of seasons, we should be gathering together with family and friends to celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior. It’s not a time of year when the justice system should be competing for our attention to render such a divisive verdict. Politics should have no place in justice.
"I don’t know what role politics played in the timing of today’s announcement, and this is not about the law enforcement officers who get up every day and serve this community with integrity and courage. But I do see it as evidence of a growing divide, and I truly believe that Milwaukee is a broken city."
Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan issued this statement:
"I’ve said from the beginning—Dontre Hamilton’s death is a tragedy. But in the case of the decision not to charge Officer Christopher Manney, I believe the district attorney has made the correct choice. It’s a choice that is based on facts—not on rhetoric, not on politics, not on protests, but on facts.
"Having said that, it’s worth reiterating, most especially in light of the DA’s decision today, that Officer Manney’s firing is an ill-conceived, politically-motivated attempt to placate protesters. It’s clear to anyone who watched the news this weekend or tried to use the interstate on Friday night that, in that attempt, they failed.
"The irresponsible behavior by some of these protesters needs to come to an end. Law and order must be maintained in our communities at all costs.
"We find ourselves in the midst of an apparent war on police across the nation. Even as this tragedy continues to play out here in Milwaukee, my thoughts turn to the heinous and cowardly assassination of two NYPD officers this weekend. It’s beyond belief that things have gone that far. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those victims in New York, and with officers nationwide who have to strap on their bulletproof vests this week.
"My fear is that this violence could escalate and impact more lives. As a nation and as a community, I believe the time is now to step back, take a deep breath and realize that police officers are not the problem. They are a part of the solution.
"These brave men and women put their lives on the line daily. Sadly, they are called upon to man the fine line that prevents our neighborhoods, both nationally and locally, from descending into utter chaos. And yet, many people consistently fail to recognize the sacrifices that our police officers make on a daily basis.
"It’s ironic that one of the most persistent chants we’ve heard throughout the course of these protests is, “No justice, no peace.”
"Where is the justice for the citizens who live in fear, clamoring for more police and quicker response times in their crime-ridden neighborhoods?
"Where is the justice for children who are growing up in terrible environments, surrounded by crime and violence?
"Where is the justice for my constituents and other residents of Milwaukee who are being told that the scarce police we do have are being diverted from their usual beats to babysit these protesters?
"And where is the justice for these officers who are demonized, even as they take time away from their families during the holidays to do the best job they can at protecting and serving the very people who demonize them? Where is the justice for these officers, who face danger every day but, sadly, fear their command staff more than they fear the criminal element?
"Keeping all of this in mind, I find myself in total agreement: no justice, no peace."
Congresswoman Gwen Moore issued this statement:
“I am deeply disappointed in District Attorney John Chisholm’s decision to not press charges against Officer Christopher Manney in the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton. This decision is just one of many in recent weeks that continue to perpetuate a disheartening notion that there is a significant lapse in accountability for reckless officers and the behavior they employ in our communities.
"For those who see this decision as a miscarriage of justice, I assure you that our efforts to pursue a fair and equitable outcome for the Hamilton family are far from over. In the coming days, I will be asking the Department of Justice to conduct their own investigation into this matter to ensure that Dontre’s death will not be in vain."
"It is paramount that we channel our collective grief and frustration in a constructive manner. We must rigorously pursue justice, including changes to police procedure and training regarding the appropriate use of force. This, not violence, will honor Dontre’s memory. As a mother and grandmother, I can’t imagine the anguish and disappointment the Hamilton family must be feeling right now. My heart goes out to them during this painful time."
Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen issued this statement:
“The 14 shots fired seems excessive for an unarmed citizen who was not known to act violently prior to police contact, and calls into question the decision not to file criminal charges while calling this justified self-defense,” Bowen said. “This is a tragedy that occurs far too frequently both in our community and around the country. We are saddened and outraged, and we want justice from a system that clearly attempts to be the ‘Just Us’ system. It is imperative to our cause for a better future that massive numbers of people engage in creative protest.
“This series of senseless violence will only end when we stand firmly together with righteousness in our hearts. The lives of our community matter, and I pray for the Hamilton family's strength.”
Voces de la Frontera issued the following statement:
“We condemn District Attorney John Chisolm’s decision to not charge fired police officer Christopher Manney with any crime for killing Dontre Hamilton. To ensure positive police-community relations, we must hold law enforcement officials to high standards under stressful situations. There was no need to fire 14 rounds in a lethal manner at a man who represented no danger.
“We send our love to Dontre’s family and the families of other victims of police violence. We encourage community members to protest this decision, and we join the Hamilton family in calling on the federal government to start an independent investigation to achieve justice. Justice for Dontre! Black Brown solidarity! Black lives matter!”
State Sen. Harris Dodd issued the following statement:
“I am deeply disturbed by District Attorney Chisholm’s decision not to charge Officer Manney in the death of Dontre Hamilton. Initial reports indicated that two police officers had independently determined that Hamilton was not causing a disturbance by sleeping in the park. I find it very disheartening that D.A. Chisholm’s investigation did not include an investigation into Officer Manney’s sudden decision to approach Hamilton and awaken him, despite the fact that Hamilton was sleeping peacefully. By waking Hamilton, Officer Manney agitated a peaceful situation and caused the situation to erupt with deadly results.
“While I do not agree with the D.A.’s decision, I do believe that it is important that we do not react to this breaking news with violence. Up to this point, the community has peacefully and responsibly protested this case and through their actions, have cast light on the urgent situation that Milwaukee is faced with. It does not strengthen our cause to escalate an already devastating decision for Hamilton’s family and for the Milwaukee community.
“District Attorney Chisholm’s decision reflects a sad sentiment that police officers should not be held accountable for their actions. It is an officer’s duty to protect the public and enforce the laws, but it is not their duty to inflict fear and apply the law through forcible and violent measures. I am saddened that D.A. Chisholm is sending the community the message that police officers are immune from prosecution even if their actions bring about the death of one of our community members.
“In the wake of this decision, it is time for us to start the road to healing. We need to move forward with the renewed resolve to create a better Milwaukee for our children. We need to work with the police to create more competent and comprehensive police training. Included in that training should be training on appropriate police responses to interactions with those individuals suffering from mental illness. The road to healing will be a long one, but I can assure you that I am steadfast in my determination to prevent these injustices from happening in the future.
“My heart goes out to the Hamilton family again for their loss and for the devastation that I am sure they feel in the wake of this news.”
State Sen. Lena Taylor issued this statement:
"First I would like to say, my continued thoughts, prayers, and support are with the Hamilton Family during this difficult time. I know it is difficult as we watch our friends, family, and community suffer without recompense; but, the way forward is not through violence but through active engagement in the political process. I am disappointed in DA, John Chisholm’s choice not to charge Christopher Manney. Honestly, after waiting eight months, like most Milwaukeeans I am not surprise by his decision. I commend the Hamilton family’s nonviolent resolve; I understand the frustration that flows from intolerable conditions that exist in our society.
"The outpouring of community outrage is about more than Dontre Hamilton or any one individual, incident, or injustice. It is larger than a single police officer or department. It is about the systemic inequity within the institutions that are supposed to uphold justice “I urge the protesters to ‘keep their eyes on the prize’ and remain peaceful and strategic; this is the only way to sustain long term and systemic change. Let’s be clear, anything short of mandatory cultural competency and mental health training for all those who serve the people of Milwaukee, and the dollars to match is not real. This must be coupled with a plan to fill the two vacant appointments on the Fire & Police Commission, and direct engagement in a transparent selection process for the new executive director. All other efforts are only disingenuous efforts to pacify rather than address the real problem. There are well documented disparities in policing, charging, and sentencing and judicial and prosecutorial discretion play a key role in the perpetuation of these disparities. The DAs decision not to charge Christopher Manney is but one of many examples of how this discretion leads to ever widening inequities within the justice system. I will continue to advocate for the necessary changes to ensure that unnecessary loss of life ends with Dontre."