In recent years, there have been several high profile incidents where Milwaukee Police Department ("MPD") officers have used unreasonable and excessive force against citizens. Perhaps the most famous incident was the beating of Frank L. Jude, Jr. by several on-duty and off-duty MPD officers. There was also the incident involving Jeffrey Strasser, where smart phone video captured an MPD officer striking Mr. Strasser twice in the head following a traffic stop. The most disturbing thing about the Jude and Strasser incidents is that several MPD officers just stood around and watched as their fellow officers used excessive force.
Now, following the most recent incident of possible police excessive force, where Derek Williams died in MPD custody, the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is considering new use-of-force policies for MPD officers. Under the new policies, officers would be required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force. In addition, the definition of force would be expanded to include taking a suspect to the ground to handcuff or subdue the suspect. Lastly, officers would be required to report the reasons for striking, punching or kicking a suspect. For more information about the new use-of-force policies, see the report of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.
The civil rights lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. believe that these new policies should be implemented. Civil rights attorney Jonathan S. Safran told the Journal Sentinel that the new policies "will allow for a better evaluation of the conduct of officers as to whether the force that's being used was indeed reasonable and whether certain officers tend to be using force more than others." We represented Frank L. Jude, Jr. in his civil rights lawsuit against the MPD officers involved in his beating and against the City of Milwaukee. We obtained $2 million for Mr. Jude, the second-largest settlement for a police excessive force case in the history of Wisconsin. We also represent the family of Derek Williams in an effort to achieve justice and accountability for his death. Although it would appear that such policies and procedures have already existed for many years, requiring police intervention in fellow-officer excessive force situations, as well as the requirement to file use-of-force reports, we hope that these additional use-of-force policies are implemented, especially if they help to ensure that future incidents of police excessive force can be avoided.