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WI police departments withdrawing assistance for DNC over FPC directive for MPD

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Several Wisconsin police departments that had planned on assisting Milwaukee police during the Democratic National Convention have withdrawn that commitment because of concerns over actions by the city’s Common Council and Fire and Police Commission (FPC).

CBS 58 confirmed the Fond du Lac, West Allis and Franklin police departments are among those that will no longer be providing assistance to the Milwaukee Police Department when the DNC takes place in August.

The Wisconsin Police Executive Group (WiPEG) sent a letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales and other city leaders in early July expressing concern over a potential lack of equipment needed for officers assisting with policing the DNC. Specifically, the letter highlighted the Common Council’s objection and cancellation of the MPD plan to purchase equipment for chemical irritants (tear gas, pepper spray, etc.).

Leaders of WiPEG said their concerns were validated on July 20 when the FPC issued a directive to Chief Morales to work with the commission to discontinue the use of chemical irritants to disperse crowds of people during protests.

“We have the highest level of respect for Chief Morales,” WiPEG Chair Bill Lamb told CBS 58 in a phone interview. “But we strongly disagree with the actions taken by the Fire and Police Commission.”

Lamb is also Chief of the Fond Du Lac Police Department and said the directive issued by the FPC is considered by him and other law enforcement leaders as a public safety issue.

“We believe that removing those tools from the available resources that law enforcement officers would have at their disposal if protests become non-peaceful will severely compromise the safety of the public and also the men and women that are going to be called upon to protect the Democratic National Convention,” Lamb said.

That sentiment was echoed by the West Allis Police Department.

“It is our belief WAPD officers assisting with the DNC could be put in a position where they may not have the proper equipment to safely perform their duties and protect the public,” WAPD Deputy Chief Robert Fletcher wrote in an email to CBS 58. “As such, we informed MPD the WAPD would no longer be providing assistance during the DNC.”

Lamb said other departments may follow in withdrawing assistance. He added that if the FPC reverses course, he may reconsider his position.

CBS 58 reached out to the FPC for comment but a request for comment was not immediately returned.

Because of concerns over COVID-19, the DNC is being significantly scaled back from the originally planned event where some 50,000 people were expected to visit Milwaukee for the convention. The exact number of attendees is not known yet, but it is likely to be in the low hundreds.

Presumptive nominee Joe Biden said he plans on formally accepting the nomination in Milwaukee, but the four-day event will feature several virtual events.

Despite the scaled-back version of the convention, it is still likely to draw large protests.

In a statement, DNC Host Committee Press Secretary Tim Carroll wrote, “As plans evolve due to the ongoing pandemic, we will continue to work with local law enforcement officials, in coordination with the Secret Service, to ensure that the 2020 Democratic National Convention is a safe and secure event for Milwaukee residents and everyone involved with our convention."

The convention begins August 17.

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