The U.S. Department of Justice and the Milwaukee Police Department have agreed to a federal review of the city's force, officials announced Tuesday.
The DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) said Milwaukee's police will undergo a voluntary process — known as a "collaborative reform initiative" — led by federal officials. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the city is only the ninth department in the country to apply for the voluntary review.
The decision to review the MPD comes after the department's chief, Edward Flynn, put in a request with the DOJ last month requesting the review of his department.
Flynn announced that he put in the request on the same day that the Justice Department announced it would not pursue federal civil rights charges over the April 2014 shooting death of mentally ill Milwaukee man Dontre Hamilton by former MPD officer Chris Manney.
Hamilton family attorney Jonathan Safran told BuzzFeed News that he welcomes the federal review, but added that the process "really does not have anything to do with Dontre Hamilton's case, other than the fact that Chief Flynn announced it the same day that the Civil Rights Division announced that it was not going to pursue charges against Christopher Manney."
The Journal-Sentinel reports that the COPS review takes a less adversarial approach than a consent decree — or a formal monitoring program of police like the investigation announced last week in Chicago.
"I suspect that the COPS process is at least the MPD's attempt to avoid such a full investigation from being undertaken," Safran said.
On the evening April 30, 2014, Hamilton, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was sleeping on a park bench when employees from a nearby Starbucks called the police because they thought he was disturbing the peace. Two officers responded and informed the baristas that Dontre wasn't doing anything illegal.
Manney showed up after, roused Dontre, and tried to pat him down. The two men got into a struggle and Dontre allegedly swiped Manney's baton and hit him with it. Manney fired his gun, hitting Dontre 14 times and killing him.
The tragedy reverberated through the community and made national news as details of what happened that night in the park emerged.
Six months later, Manney was fired in October 2014 for executing an illegal pat-down on an "EDP" (emotionally disturbed person.) Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn called the pat-down a violation of department procedure, but wouldn't damn Manney's use of deadly force.
In December 2014, the state announced that Manney would not face criminal charges.
After a 10-month review of the evidence, the DOJ determined in November 2015 that Manney did not act with "deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids" when he shot and killed the 31-year-old Hamilton in Milwaukee's Red Arrow Park.
"Mistake, misperception, negligence, or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation," the U.S. Attorney's office said.
Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mike Hayes at email@example.com.
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