MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department’s six-month “use of force” report has been released, and shows the department is “using force” less when making arrests than in previous years. However, the recent controversy surrounding last year’s arrest and subsequent death of 22-year-old Derek Williams while in police custody may impact how some examine these numbers.
The “use of force” numbers will be presented to Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission on Thursday, October 4th. At that meeting, the Williams’ death case will also be a big topic of discussion.
Williams died in the back of an MPD squad car after he was arrested in July of 2011. Dashcam video shows Williams struggling to breathe and asking for help.
Milwaukee County’s Medical Examiner recently changed Williams’ official cause of death from natural causes (Sickle cell trait) to homicide (death at the hands of another). This prompted Milwaukee County’s District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn to announce an inquest into Williams’ death.
The release of dashcam video has city leaders, faith leaders, Williams’ family attorneys and members of the public calling for answers — and changes.
Meanwhile, a report analyzing the use of force by MPD officers in the first half of 2012 shows officers had to use less force than in early 2011 and 2010. There were 214 incidents where officers felt threatened enough to use force during an arrest — meaning during the almost 18,500 arrests during the first half of 2012, force was used less than 1% of the time.
The report shows police only had to use a firearm 16 times.
One incident involved a sergeant shooting a man threatening his girlfriend with a shotgun. The man survived the shooting.
The 15 other incidents involved aggressive pitbulls.
The report indicates officers involved in these “use of force” incidents have an average of about 10 years of experience.
Mike Tobin, director of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission says he doesn’t know whether the dashcam video showing Williams dying while in police custody last summer and a new investigation into that death will lead to more scrutiny of MPD’s use of force statistics.
Tobin says an incident like the one involving Williams is already looked at as not just “use of force,” but “a critical incident.” Critical incidents get more attention from the Fire and Police Commission.
Williams’ death is expected to be discussed during Thursday’s Fire and Police Commission meeting. The latest development in the case: On Monday, FOX6 News obtained documents showing two of the officers present at the scene the night Williams died were also at the scene when at least one suspect was subject to an illegal cavity search by another officer.
Additionally, the Milwaukee NAACP chapter is calling for a restructuring of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to focus on civil rights and citizen input — in light of the Williams’ case. The restructuring would include strengthening of the Civil Equal Rights Commission, re-establishing the County Human Rights Commission and creating a State Office of Human Rights to hear citizen civil rights complaints.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm have called for an inquest into Williams’ death. The two announced they are seeking an independent prosecutor to allow a public airing of the facts in this case. Chief Flynn has pledged complete cooperation with the inquest.
CLICK HERE for additional coverage of the Derek Williams’ death investigation via FOX6Now.com.