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New policy allows MPD Officers to pursue reckless drivers, drug traffickers

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission has approved a major policy change, allowing MPD officers to pursue more vehicles. 

The commission demanded the changes from Chief Ed Flynn earlier this year, after a majority of common council members requested a review of the policy. 

Current policy says officers can only pursue cars - and people - involved in violent felonies.

The new policy allows officers to pursue cars involved in mobile drug trafficking, and cars involved in reckless driving. 

    "Now if people are recklessly driving, cutting through traffic, speeding, they'll be able to make a decision about whether or not to pursue, and I think that's important," said Alderman Michael Murphy.

Murphy says the changes submitted in the new policy meet the criteria for what he requested earlier this year.

    "It's always a balance an officer makes in that decision to chase somebody, but I think we went too far overboard to the point where the message on the streets of Milwaukee was there are no laws." 

Records show MPD documented 2,544 "non-pursuits" in 2015. Last year, that number spiked to 4,317.

Chief Flynn amended the policy in 2010, as part of a plan to cut down on innocent people being injured in pursuits.

    "It's dangerous behavior. Keep in mind, I changed the policy because 4 people were killed in a month by people fleeing the police."

He resisted changing the policy from the start, but ultimately was left with little choice. The FPC threatened to punish, or even fire him, if he did not comply and change the policy. 

    "It's going to obviously result in more risk to the community," he said. "That's the position we're in. The community we're trying to protect is being placed at risk by policies that the community is demanding, and that's one of the things that makes policing hard." 

The new policy says officers should only pursue vehicles if they believe immediate apprehension outweighs the danger created by the pursuit.

The new policy will go into effect on September 22nd. 

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