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Milwaukee judge rules against city and Police Association on releasing footage of critical incidents

By Lo Cross

Members of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression \[MAARPR\] protest at the headquarters of police union.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Milwaukee, WI – On March 29, Judge Brittany Grayson issued a ruling regarding the Milwaukee Police Association’s (MPA) case against the city of Milwaukee over Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 575. Judge Grayson denied the city of Milwaukee’s motion to dismiss the MPA’s case against SOP 575, but she also ruled against the MPA’s argument that the Fire and Police Commission violated state law or the collective bargaining agreement. The MPA failed to produce the necessary evidence to justify their argument.

While this is not a complete and final victory around SOP 575, it is a noteworthy development in the struggle against police crimes in Milwaukee. The ruling comes after nearly a year since SOP 575’s temporary suspension. In anticipation of the ruling, the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression organized press conferences and multiple pickets outside of the MPA’s office. These actions served to highlight how weak the MPA’s argument was and how it lacked popular support from Milwaukee community members, allied community organizations, and city officials.

The MPA has argued that SOP 575 could “primarily relate to wages, hours and conditions of employment,” which would mean that the city of Milwaukee needed to respect the police association’s “right” to bargain over this policy. The Fire and Police Commission, which prior to Act 12 had policy-making power over the Milwaukee Police Department, argued that they are the statutory rule-making authority of the MPD. Therefore, the policy is legitimate because it is “primarily based on management of the police department, not conditions of employment.” Due to the ruling, the case is poised to head to a trial.

SOP 575 is a policy requiring MPD to release the footage of any critical incident to the victim’s next of kin within 48 hours and to the public within 15 days. The MPA sued the city of Milwaukee and filed an injunction against SOP 575, which prevented it from being implemented after being passed last April.

Judge Grayson hasn’t explained whether this ruling will cancel the temporary injunction placed on SOP 575, but she indicated that there will be a status hearing on May 16. The timing of the status hearing comes two months before the Republican National Convention (RNC). There was a motion last summer made by MPD to suspend SOP 575 for the duration of the RNC. What a ruling to ratify SOP 575 means in the wake of its temporary suspension during the RNC remains to be determined.

The Milwaukee Alliance and its allies will continue to struggle around SOP 575 and for police accountability and transparency. State Representatives Ryan Clancy, Francesca Hong and Sheila Stubbs are seeking to amend Act 12, specifically to restore the Fire and Police Commission’s policy-making power.

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