MILWAUKEE, WI – Coming up on August 17 is the Democratic National Convention, for which many police agencies were set to help with security.
However, since Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has been ordered to change the policies for the department and essentially ban tear gas and pepper spray use, over 100 agencies have pulled out of that agreement.
“Since the Milwaukee order was issued, more than 100 law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and across the country decided against coming to Milwaukee, Morales told WTMJ-TV on Tuesday.
“They were concerned with directives placed on the police department, including not allowing tear gas or pepper spray, he said.”
Originally, as in years past, there was a plan in place to have 1,000 officers from outside agencies on hand to assist with security.
Chief Morales didn’t specify all the agencies that have pulled out, nor did he say how many officers he expected to be in attendance.
Several police departments in Wisconsin had planned to assist Milwaukee police during the DNC. The departments say the decision to withdraw is due to concerns over a possible lack of equipment officers would need https://t.co/AgiQxCiSWL
— WTRF 7News (@WTRF7News) July 28, 2020
He did say, however, that he’s considering calling in the National Guard or asking for federal officers to be deployed for assistance in the absence of local officers.
Many of those heads of agencies that have backed out expressed their concern over the lack of tools being afforded to officers to safely disperse violent crowds.
Due to COVID-19, the event is expected to have a low number of 300 attendees, with many speeches and events being virtual only. Former Vice President Joe Biden has indicated that he will be in Milwaukee to accept the Democratic nomination for Presidential Candidate.
Despite the low attendance expected, police were still planning on having a full-scale security plan in case of mass protests.
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Some of the comments from department heads are as follows:
- Franklin, WI Police Chief Rick Oliva said:
“It is apparent there is a lack of commitment to provide the Milwaukee Police Department with the resources it needs to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters, attendees, citizens and police personnel.
“I can not send personnel if they are not properly equipped or will not be allowed to engage in appropriate actions which would ensure their safety.”
- Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said no officers would be sent by his department:
“I understand that use of chemical irritants and pepper spray is serious and those are to be used only when legally justified. But when you take that out of the continuum that doesn’t leave the officers much other than getting harmed or using deadly force and that’s not good for any officer or the public.”
- Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb confirmed that his agency is pulling out of the agreement, and added that he expects others to do the same:
“We regret having to do that. We respect the Fire and Police Commission’s decision.
“But in this particular case, we strongly disagree with the actions they’ve taken. We believe (that) in removing those tools, the use of chemical irritants or pepper spray, from the available resources that the law enforcement officers would have at their disposal if protests become non-peaceful would severely compromise the safety of the public and also the safety of the law enforcement officers who would be assigned to protect the DNC.”
- West Allis Deputy Chief Robert Fletcher said in an email to Chief Morales:
“Our concern is that in the event protests turn non-peaceful, such a policy would remove tools from officers that may otherwise be legal and justifiable to utilize in specific situations.”
Police agencies pull out of DNC convention
Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the agreements were collapsing, saying he expects other agencies in the state to also withdraw.
— Gigi Sims (@1GigiSims1) July 28, 2020
Despite all the concerns, some agencies are standing by their commitments to the event.
Among those still assisting is Green Bay PD. Police Chief Andrew Smith said:
“We made a commitment that we would assist Chief Morales and the Milwaukee Police Department. We intend to honor that commitment.”
West Bend Police Chief Kenneth Meuler, who is a former Milwaukee Captain, said:
“I am confident that Chief Morales and city officials will work out an agreement to address the concerns that some of the other chiefs have raised.”
Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson spoke regarding the commission’s decision to remove police use of chemical irritants in crowd control.
“[The council has] only asked for transparency when it comes to the use of chemical irritants — especially during a time when tensions between law enforcement and the community need to be de-escalated.
“I’m very thankful to police forces from Green Bay, West Bend and other communities from across Wisconsin and the United States that not only will honor their commitment to provide security during the Democratic National Convention but also respect the moment that our nation is in as we collectively re-examine police-community relations.”
While some agencies have backed out of the agreement citing COVID-19 concerns rather than handcuffing police, Some said they could no longer spare the resources due to civil unrest in their own localities. Some have also backed out with no explanation.
At this time, there has been no decision made regarding an updated security plan in light of the lack of agencies participating. As stated above, Chief Morales is considering the use of the National Guard and/or federal officers.
No members of the DNC have commented as of yet.
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