Milwaukee, WI – A U.S. congresswoman from Milwaukee said she thought the police department needed to revisit its pursuit policy because “almost no one is worth chasing,” WTMJ reported.
U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) shared her opinion on police tactics on Tuesday in the wake of the death of 23-year-old Milwaukee Police Officer Charley Irvine on June 7.
Most notably, the congressional representative from the fallen officer’s district said she wanted to restrict police officers’ responses rather than increase penalties on the criminal offenders.
"The danger that police officers and civilians are put in [due to high speed chases] should really give us pause," Moore told WTMJ. "Nothing is worth these high speed chases. We ought to revisit this policy."
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn changed the department’s chase policy in September of 2017, and his revisions were approved unanimously by the city’s Fire and Police Commission, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Previously, officers could only pursue a vehicle if they had probable cause to believe the vehicle or its occupants had been involved in a violent felony, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Under the new policy, Milwaukee officers were also permitted to chase if the occupants were "engaged in drug dealing proximate in time" to the beginning of the pursuit.
Chief Flynn’s new policy also allowed a chase when the "necessity of immediate apprehension outweighs the level of danger created by the vehicle pursuit, as in the case of the vehicle engaged in reckless driving,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said he strongly disagreed with Moore’s assertion that police pursuits were the problem.
"I can't believe she said that," Sheriff Beth told WTMJ on Wednesday. "What she should have said was 'we need to strengthen the penalties for people who take off.'"
More suspects will run if they know they cannot be chased, he said.
In the recent incident that led to one Milwaukee officer being killed, and another seriously wounded, in a high-speed pursuit, the driver of the suspect car told investigating officers afterward that he didn’t know they were allowed to chase him.
"[Harrison] took off because he believed he would not be caught," Sheriff Beth said. "We need to start curbing the crime, not promoting it."
“I thought you guys couldn’t pursue vehicles unless it was a felony,” Harrison told detectives after the police car chasing him flipped over, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Harrison later told police that he’d fled police because he knew his license was revoked, and he had a gun in the car, along with his five-year-old son, according to WITI.
The community was outraged to learn that Harrison had just been released from jail.
Despite the fact that Harrison had twice failed to show up for court after his license had been revoked, Milwaukee County court commissioner Barry Phillips released Harrison on a signature bond, WITI reported.
This means that Harrison only needed to sign a paper promising to pay $500 if he didn't show up for court.
Wisconsin State Representative Joe Sanfelippo expressed his outrage and said Harrison should not have been out free on the streets.
"[Harrison] has already shown that he's not going to follow the law," Sanfelippo told WITI. "To turn around and release him on a signature bond again? It's foolish. It's mind-boggling, and it shows a callous disregard for public safety."
Harrison has an extensive history of driving-related offenses.
Police caught him driving with a suspended license for the second time in 2010, WITI reported.
In 2017, Harrison was arrested by Wauwatosa police for driving with a license that had already been revoked for a DUI the prior fall. The criminal complaint said he also had a counterfeit license plate on his car at that time.
Harrison skipped court on two occasions in 2017, and arrest warrants were issued after each failure to appear, WITI reported.
The first time, a different court commissioner gave him a $100 signature bond. The second time, Phillips set a signature bond at $500.
Nine days later, Officer Irvine was dead, and then Harrison was arrested using the fallen officer’s handcuffs.
"All he got was a slap on the wrist and then it escalates each time to the point now, where he gets into this chase with the police officers, where we end up with one dead cop and one seriously injured cop," Sanfelippo said.