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Milwaukee Alliance demands police transparency

By staff

Milwaukee, WI – On Thursday, September 22, members of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression attended the Fire and Police Commission (FPC) Policies and Standards Committee Meeting. The Milwaukee Alliance leaders were there to voice their disapproval of the memorandum the FPC is circulating. This memorandum calls for the creation of a standard operating procedure (SOP) regarding the release of video footage of critical incidents.

Some parts of the FPC memorandum suggest promising recommendations for the eventual SOP. It requires the Milwaukee Police Department to show families of people killed by MPD the video footage. However, most of the other recommendations lack the teeth that would help the SOP ensure a significant level of transparency.

For example, the FPC wants to consider “whether MPD should have the ability to redact other portions of video footage, such as disturbing images/sounds.” As those organizing against police killings and crimes know, these videos are disturbing, so if MPD had the ability to edit “disturbing images/sounds” there would be no video.

Furthermore, the FPC remains lenient on MPD’s narrative that it takes them 45 days to go through the process necessary for holding a community briefing and releasing the footage.

In July, authorities in Akron, Ohio, released video footage and held a community briefing a week after the brutal police killing of Jayland Walker. After a police chase, Walker was shot 46 times from behind by eight police officers. Why can’t MPD, with all its resources, nearly half of the city’s budget, release the footage in less than a week?

“Oh, they can release the footage. When the cousin of Keishon Thomas shot up District 5, they released the footage the next day. But they still don’t release all of the footage in the case of Thomas himself [who died in MPD custody earlier this summer],” said Brian Verdin, education chair of the Milwaukee Alliance, during the meeting with the FPC.

Part of the answer to the question is that the police must edit the footage and give their officers enough time to review it and match their accounts to the video for when they are eventually interviewed in cases of critical incidents or police murders. Of course, MPD’s chief of staff, who attended the meeting and took up the most time speaking, denies that they edit footage for these reasons. He claims they edit the footage because they don’t want it interfering with ongoing investigations, a point that the district attorney has actually negated.

While the memorandum is only the beginning of the drafting process of the SOP, it suggests that the FPC is poised to create a proposal that changes little. It is soft and preserves the power of police in determining the narrative. This undermines the facts in cases of police misconduct and murders.

“You have the chance to create a policy that will actually ensure police transparency in these cases,” said Alan Chavoya, outreach chair of the Milwaukee Alliance, at the FPC meeting. “You speak of how our communities have no trust in MPD or [the FPC], yet you produce a memo that shows you are ignoring the demands of the families who have lost loved ones to police violence and the nearly 1000 people who have signed our petition for releasing the footage within 48 hours and the names of officers within 24.”

Omar Flores, finance chair of the MAARPR, said, “We’re wondering why we have to beg to put something forth that the public is asking for, and yet, [the FPC] takes a whole year only to listen to the police about why we supposedly can’t have this policy.”

At the meeting’s conclusion, the FPC voted in favor of beginning to write the proposal of the SOP. The Milwaukee Alliance will keep a close eye on the FPC as they draft this proposal and will continue demanding for an SOP that ensures actual transparency and accountability.

#MilwaukeeWI #PeoplesStruggles #PoliceBrutality #MilwaukeeAllianceAgainstRacistPoliticalRepression