Acting police chief 'disturbed' by comments from alderman about Nazi Germany during debate about K9s

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee's acting police chief is reacting strongly to comments an alderman is making about police deployment of K9 dogs.

On Thursday, Oct. 22, Acting Police Chief Michael Brunson and members of Milwaukee's Public Safety and Health Committee got into a heated debate about the issue.

Alderman Khalif Rainey is calling for the city's Fire and Police Commission, or FPC, to disallow the use of K9s as a use of force. 

In a news release, Rainey mentioned examples when police dogs were unleashed on people of color, including during the Civil Rights era  and when "200,000 attack canines were used by Nazi Germany."

But during the committee meeting Thursday, Brunson said he did not appreciate Rainey's comments.

"The insinuation here that was made was, in my opinion, inflammatory and specious on top of that. I would appreciate if the facts are obtained before a press release goes out such as the one that was put out," Brunson said.

Rainey responded: "I'm sorry that I disturbed you with my press release. I know we see many tweets from the Milwaukee Police Department that has disturbed many members of the council, so I can understand."

The acting chief also noted that Rainey's news release was citing incidents that have happened elsewhere, not within the city of Milwaukee.

"I was pretty well disturbed by some of the correlations he's making to Nazi Germany and to the 1960s during the Civil Rights era and trying to make a correlation. That was pretty disturbing to me," Brunson said.

Brunson says K9s are only deployed in rare situations and must meet certain criteria.

MPD deployed K9s 999 times in 2019 and 420 times so far in 2020. In each year, one citizen was bitten by a K9, according to Brunson.

But Rainey said the numbers don't tell the full story, and the issue is about examining police practices at a time when protesters across the country are calling for change.

"I think even if the data doesn't say that police dogs are being used frequently on our residents -- I think it's a stand for us to say as a community, as a great city ... this is something that we will not do anymore. It's barbaric and these dogs are being utilized as a weapon of aggression against people across the country," Rainey said.

Rainey's legislation passed the committee on Thursday with three ayes and two abstentions. Alderman Scott Spiker was one of the two aldermen who abstained.

"I'm cognizant I don't want to be signing my name to something that would put either officers or subjects in greater danger," Spiker said.

The proposal now heads to the full Common Council. Council members will be recommending whether they want the FPC to take up the issue and amend the police department's standard of practice on K9s.

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