Community activists rejoice as FPC approves new video release policy for MPD critical incidents

NOW: Community activists rejoice as FPC approves new video release policy for MPD critical incidents

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The City of Milwaukee's independent Fire and Police Commission approved a long-debated new policy that will regulate the release of MPD video of critical incidents.

MPD must now show families relevant video within 48 hours of a critical incident, and the video must be released to the general public within 15 days.

There was a victorious eruption inside the meeting room when the new standard operating procedure passed, but the process was not without some last-minute drama.

For two years, Milwaukee activists have been calling for more transparency after critical incidents involving police. Now, they tell us they feel they have it.

Edward Fallone, the Chair of the Fire and Police Commission, was the final vote. He told those gathered, "It is considered, it is a thoughtful achievement, and the Chair votes aye, and the motion carries."

Several grassroots community groups have fought for more transparency for families who have lost loved ones in critical incidents involving Milwaukee police officers.

Omar Flores is a member of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. After the policy's passage, he told us, "For two years we talked with family members, we talked with community members. Those family members have had to suffer for so long. We've had to witness tears. We've had to witness their suffering. And now we know that when this happens again, they won't have to suffer again."

The new policy ends a long debate and at-times painful discussions.

More than two dozen people spoke during public comment Thursday, including the mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was killed by a Milwaukee officer in 2014. Hamilton's death directly led to MPD getting body cameras.

His mother Maria Hamilton told the commission that what was needed was "Transparency from community, transparency from the police department. We have yet to see that. We really need this policy to change."

But as the final vote approached, commissioners weighed whether to remove a provision that would have allowed the police chief to get a five-day extension to release video.

Community members spoke against the extension. A community member who called himself T-Man told the commission, "By implementing a no exceptions, no extensions policy, you are showing leadership and consistency. It's moral, it's practical, and it represents the will of the people of Milwaukee."

They ultimately convinced the commission to remove it.

As Commissioner Bree Spencer voted, she told the crowd, "Community input matters. Thank you. Aye."

Finally it was time to determine the fate of the entire policy. It passed by an 8-1 vote.

Fallone said, "This is a major step forward for the City of Milwaukee. Citizen oversight of police and public safety works. Keeping politics out of decisions about policing policy and practices works."

The new standard operating procedure goes into effect May 1.

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