Justice Department says Milwaukee police reform plan coming

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2015 6:26 PM
Justice Department says Milwaukee police reform plan coming

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department announced plans Tuesday to work with Milwaukee police on implementing reforms following the fatal shooting of a mentally ill black man in a confrontation with a white officer last year at a downtown park.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn asked for a DOJ partnership and examination in November, after the federal government said it wouldn't pursue criminal civil rights charges against a former officer in the death of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot 14 times.

The federal action, known as a collaborative reform process, carries less stigma than patterns and practices reviews also conducted by the U.S. Justice Department. Civil rights investigators conduct those reviews, which can lead to an overhaul in policies and protocols as well as court-enforceable agreements between the police force and the federal government.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week announced such an investigation for the Chicago Police Department.

The Justice Department also conducted a patterns and practices review of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department stemming from the death of black 18-year-old Michael Brown in a 2014 confrontation with white officer Darren Wilson. It produced a scathing report on the department's practices.

However, officials in St. Louis County, which includes Ferguson, requested a collaborative reform process, as Milwaukee has done. An October report listed more than 100 recommendations intended to make the department "a model for the rest of the country." That report also indicated that county police learned from mistakes made in August 2014.

In the Milwaukee case, Hamilton, was schizophrenic but not violent, according to his family, and died in an encounter that started when former officer Christopher Manney responded to a complaint saying a man was illegally sleeping in the park.

Flynn fired Manney, saying he improperly decided to frisk Hamilton, but the death still prompted ongoing protests, including a demonstration at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony last month that resulted in a handful of arrests.

The reform effort will be discussed at a news conference Thursday.

Jonathan Safran, a Hamilton family lawyer, said he will continue to ask for a patterns and practices review, but that he hopes the collaborative reform "helps identify systemic problems in the department and leads to those problems getting fixed."

He said the family has exhausted its efforts in seeking a criminal prosecution of Manney and that they plan to file a civil lawsuit at some point soon.

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

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Follow Greg Moore at https://twitter.com/writingmoore. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/greg-moore