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COMPLETE STATEMENT: Police Chief Ed Flynn addresses firing of officer in Hamilton case

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The following is a statement from Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn made on October 15, 2014 regarding the officer-involved shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park :

“The Milwaukee Police Department has conducted a comprehensive internal investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park on April 30, 2014. The Department’s continuing authority to conduct internal investigations in these types of incidents is specifically allowed under the new state law requiring the criminal investigation of officer-involved deaths to be led by an outside investigative agency. Today, I will provide you with details of the incident, present the internal charges I have brought against the involved officer, and describe the discipline I have imposed along with the grounds for that discipline.

On April 30, 2014, two MPD officers were dispatched twice – first at 1:52pm and again at 2:09pm – by our Communications Division to respond to a request from an employee at the Starbucks within Red Arrow Park to check the welfare of Mr. Hamilton, who was laying or sleeping on the sidewalk near the Starbucks. Those officers complied with their training and our Departmental policy related to the handling of emotionally disturbed persons (EDPs) and followed relevant training related to the standards required to conduct a pat-down search. Their handling of the complaints involving Mr. Hamilton did not result in any physical contact with him and the officers found no cause for additional police action.

Christopher ManneyAt 3:28pm, Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney, the beat officer for this section of downtown, responded to a voicemail left for him by a desk officer at District One to respond to Red Arrow Park to check the welfare of a citizen based on a complaint from a Starbucks employee. Officer Manney was not aware that the two officers had already twice responded to the park and cleared the calls for service. Upon his arrival, Officer Manney found Mr. Hamilton lying on the sidewalk near the Starbucks. Officer Manney approached Mr. Hamilton, identified himself, and asked Mr. Hamilton to stand up. When Mr. Hamilton stood up, Officer Manney approached Mr. Hamilton from behind, reached under Mr. Hamilton’s arms, placed his hands on Mr. Hamilton’s chest to conduct a pat-down search, and asked if Mr. Hamilton had any weapons. As Officer Manney began the search, Mr. Hamilton began fighting with Officer Manney and a violent physical confrontation ensued. Officer Manney and Mr. Hamilton engaged in a series of punches and strikes to each others’ heads and faces. Officer Manney then attempted to use his baton to subdue Mr. Hamilton, but Hamilton was able to take the baton from Officer Manney. Mr. Hamilton swung the baton at Officer Manney multiple times and struck Officer Manney on the side of the neck with the baton. Fearing that Mr. Hamilton would seriously injure or kill him, Officer Manney transitioned to his service weapon and discharged rounds at Mr. Hamilton to stop the threat. Mr. Hamilton died of his wounds.

Our Code of Conduct requires us to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Our core values of Courage, Competence, Integrity, Leadership, Respect and Restraint underpin every one of our rules, policies, procedures, awards and disciplinary actions. We must always calibrate our actions based on the circumstances we find ourselves facing. Policing is a difficult and challenging profession in which we are expected to make decisions – sometimes split-second, life-or-death decisions – in ambiguous circumstances with incomplete facts. We know and expect that our decisions will be evaluated. In this case, we have a series of decisions by Officer Manney that resulted in the taking of a human life. While I find errors in the judgment used by Officer Manney, there was no malice in his decisions.

Every internal investigation is conducted and evaluated on the specific facts of the situation being investigated. In this case, we did not simply review the use of force by Officer Manney; we reviewed every aspect of the situation, from the handling of the original call for service to the dispatch of Officer Manney to his approach and contact with Mr. Hamilton to his ultimate use of force.

Every internal investigation also includes an assessment of aggravating and mitigating factors. Specifically, I review the employee’s motivation (was the employee acting in his or her interest or in the interest of the public?), the employee’s experience (can the alleged judgment error be attributed to the employee’s breadth and depth of experience?), whether the alleged error was intentional or unintentional, the employee’s past record, both positive and negative, and the degree of harm caused by the employee’s conduct.

Christopher Manney, by his own statements in his response to charges, accurately assessed Dontre Hamilton as an Emotionally Disturbed Person (EDP). He made a determination that Mr. Hamilton was dangerous based solely on observations of apparent mental illness, absent any overt actions on the part of Mr. Hamilton. Despite his accurate assessment of Mr. Hamilton as an EDP, Christopher Manney treated Mr. Hamilton as a dangerous criminal instead of following his training and treating Mr. Hamilton as an EDP. Christopher Manney’s approach, including an out-of-policy pat down, was not based on individualized reasonable suspicion but on an assumption of his mental state and housing status. This intentional action, in violation of training and policy, instigated a physical confrontation that resulted in a deadly use of force.

Based on the comprehensive internal investigation conducted by the Milwaukee Police Department, I charged Officer Manney with a violation of our Core Value 1.00, Competence, in reference to his out-of-policy contact with Mr. Hamilton which ultimately led to his within-policy use of force. Based on the totality of the circumstances, including the aggravating and mitigating factors I’ve described, I signed an order terminating Christopher Manney from his employment with the Milwaukee Police Department earlier today.”

32 comments

  • Frank

    It IS 100% cowardice of Chief Flynn to terminate this officer. Then again, he is all about the politics and has to safe face with the black community, no matter how violent they are. He wants re-election and we don’t want Milwaukee burned down too. Too bad Flynn made this officer a scapegoat in the wake of the thug shooting in Ferguson.

    • Ms. Konduxx (@Miss_Konduxx)

      I agree with your statement that he used this officer as a scapegoat. I think the Officers of the Milwaukee Police Department should seriously reconsider what department they work for. An hour and a half went by before this Officer was asked to check on this man again. Officers were dispatched out there three times? And if he would’ve hurt or injured someone other than Officer Manny, then it would’ve been “Why didn’t the Police do something on the first call? Or the second?” These Officers can’t win.. I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the majority of them..Because the majority of them are the good guys. And to all of you who say “good” or “about time”.. Call someone else next time you see someone with a gun, or when your house is being broken into.. Because from where I stand, these Officers can’t win even if they follow protocol..

      • cut and dry

        He didn’t follow protocol….that’s why he was fired!!! I have police officers in my family and I respect police, but the pattern remains the same for police from New York to California!!

    • Fiver

      I find hilarious irony in someone accusing another of being emotionally disturbed while using triple exclamation marks on every sentence. IT’S TRULY HILARIOUS!!!!

  • chris

    Does that mean we can go protest police and fire commission meetings, block traffic and ask for the removal of one of Milwaukee most spineless police chief now? Fair is fair

  • From_Chicago

    You can’t pat-down an emotionally disturbed person???
    What kind of stupid regulation is that??
    Emotionally disturbed people don’t carry weapons? Maybe this chief and department should start watching the news!
    Emotionally disturbed man just strapped 2 park rangers! Emotionally disturbed man with knife attacked 2 Alaska Troopers! What is wrong with these people!?
    And the person below that said they have family on the department and “rules are rules”, you are totally clueless until,you walk-the-walk!

  • sal mazza

    I cant imagine working for a police department that would expect an officer to accept being beaten to death by a perp or EDP in order to keep his job????????

  • Rocco di

    This is just proof when you are off the road for so long you loose touch with reality or he was like this on the road another knee jerk reaction by someone who does not protect his officers.

  • Rocco L.

    Wow. Has it really comes to this ?!? This Chief is a disgrace. Who is he pandering to? If the EDP hurt someone after the original responding officers left and before the fired officer arrived, it would be the original officers under the gun for failing to take action.

    Message sent. Do nothing. Violence and criminal behavior is an accepted part of society.

    Chief Flynn, you are a coward and a disgrace.

  • Sgtbotz

    LOOK RIGHT THERE…..LOOK RIGHT THERE INTO THE CAMERA???? I’M ALAN FUNT AND YOUR ON CANDID CAMERA!!!!! AHHHHAAAAA SEE SIR WE WERE JOKING BECAUSE NO POLICE CHIEF IN
    THE WORLD CAN BE THIS OFF BALANCE.

  • Daniel

    As it has become the norm in NYC, the message is spreading across the country to every Police Department. DO NOTHING !!! Your department will NOT back you up!

  • Mike haigh

    Sounds like most of the Chiefs of police these days afraid to stand and back their officers instead they turn their backs anoth sad day in law enforcement.

  • Don G

    As I read it, everything was going pretty well until the end….when “the other shoe dropped.” The Chief is spineless…..what a damm shame…..really. I hate to say it and judge based on one press release,l but if it went down the way it read……I stand by my opinion.

  • Doc Suess

    Wow. Talk about a political ridiculous termination. I would not want to work law enforcement in that city. That Chief doesn’t deserve that title.

  • Semper Fidelis

    Thank goodness the department fired this despicable man, and I hope Mr. Hamilton’s family is able to file a civil suit against him (though that’s no substitute for losing your son/brother in such a tragic way). Obviously police officers in this city DO receive training regarding wellness checks on mentally ill individuals, because the first two officers approached Mr. Hamilton calmly, and had a conversation with him that resulted in all parties going about their business, with the officers confirming that Mr. Hamilton was posing no danger to himself or others. This psycho Officer Manney probably wanted to act out some sort of violent, adolescent fantasy, and chose a marginalized member of society on which to do so.

  • Joe

    Does anyone see a failure in department policy to first of all issue dispatch orders to beat cops by voicemail and secondly if other officers have already handled the call why wouldn’t Officer Manning receive a second voicemail telling him to disregard the first voicemail. Additionally, I don’t understand how an encounter with an encounter with a man with a baton would require more than one shot to quell even if the use of deadly force were required.

  • ed

    so an officer who is being beaten with a baton including strikes on and around his head/neck area which is deadly force cannot protect himself with his own deadly force…amazing…while dealing with anyone including edps an officer should always err on the side of caution which should include a pat down for weapons

  • Maria VanCleave

    An emotionally disturbed person might include a veteran with PTSD, for one example. Coming up behind him and starting to pat him down would likely trigger a very defensive response. Do you like the idea of a war vet with PTSD being harassed by police? Or perhaps he was schizophrenic, and would likely see any approach to touch him as something that requires him to protect himself. There are all kinds of scenarios for “EDPs” and there have to be policies in place on how to handle interactions with them and what kind of things might “set them off” or cause them to act in a way “normal” people might see as unreasonable. I agree with the Chief on this. It is very unfortunate how things played out between Officer Manney and Mr. Hamilton, but if Officer Manney had followed procedure – just like we all have to follow rules in our workplace or risk termination – then things would likely never have reached such a tragic conclusion. The fact that Officer Manney is overwhelmingly supported by his peers, and the Chief is not, only demonstrates the mentality among officers to support each other, regardless of right or wrong. And the choice to not follow policy was wrong. The Chief said the shooting itself was within policy. Justified. But because policy was broken before that, which led to such violence being necessary, that is why he fired Officer Manney. I don’t understand why so many of you can’t wrap your head around this. It sounds totally reasonable and logical to me!

  • Kami Minor

    This is a reality in too many communities. The police are out there risking their lives for us on a daily basis, and they get raked over the coals for every unpopular decision they make. However, we as the public don’t hear about the other calls they have to make, the atrocities they have to witness, and the pain they have to endure while on the job. As a person who is a first responder and has seen someone die, it’s not pretty and it’s not fun. Especially when you’re doing all you can to prevent the loss of that life. Yes, there are a few bad eggs, but for the most part, these men and women are heroes. Police, Fire, EMT, Paramedics, and all others who are trained to respond in an emergency deserve our praise and respect.

  • Mike

    Didn’t follow protocol by patting down a suspicious person, yes a suspicious person, why did someone call the police in the first place? Did I understand the Chief correctly, the officer should not have considered his status as a mentally ill, homeless man, sleeping in the street as factors to consider that he might be suspicious. I guess I just never worked in a city like Milwaukee where I suppose the Police Chief considers that normal behavior. I’m certainly glad I never worked in a place like that. Also, the law enforcement Unions I have belonged to would have done a lot more for me than just voted no confidence in the Chief.

Comments are closed.

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