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On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died in an encounter with the Minneapolis Police Department. That event, and others, started a series of police brutality protests and conversations across the country. Since the summer of 2020, the Milwaukee Police Department, like other police departments, has made changes to help prevent future acts of police brutality.

What’s Changed at the Milwaukee Police Department

By May 2021, Milwaukee had enacted various police reforms, including:

  • Banning chokeholds and neck restraints. There is no exception to this ban, not even in life and death situations. Every Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission member voted in favor of the complete ban even though police and union officials opposed it. Before this ban took effect, Milwaukee police officers were not explicitly banned from using chokeholds.
  • Requiring de-escalation techniques. All Milwaukee police officers are required to use nonviolent techniques to de-escalate situations every time it is safe and feasible to do so. The official policy provides officers with nine de-escalation techniques and requires that officers consider the potential reasons for a person’s lack of compliance with police directives. For example, police officers must consider a suspect’s likely disabilities, understanding of English, and drug use when determining whether the person’s lack of compliance with police directives is deliberate.
  • Providing aid to civilians. Milwaukee police officers are required to provide aid to civilians immediately after the use of any type of force.
  • Requiring gun reports. Police officers must file a formal report with the police department every time they point a gun at someone.
  • Banning pepper spray during peaceful protests. Police officers may not use pepper spray if there is no threat of violence.
  • Requiring police officers to consider alternative restraints if a suspect claims they can’t breathe. If a police officer is physically restraining a suspect and the suspect claims they can’t breathe, the police officer must consider an alternative type of restraint that may allow the suspect to breathe more easily. Furthermore, once a suspect is handcuffed and lying down on their stomach, the officer must either put the suspect on their side or in a sitting position as soon as possible to prevent breathing problems.
  • Codifying community-oriented policing. Community-oriented policing means that the police department works closely with community members. The concept is not new to the Milwaukee Police Department. However, now it is officially part of the Department’s standard operating procedures. The policy requires police officers to build relationships with community members, take daily walking patrols, and maximize their positive interactions with community members. Commanding officers must educate officers about neighborhood conditions and local resources and establish partnerships with community groups.

Additional reforms may be coming. Some of the things under consideration include how officers respond to non-emergency calls about things like mental health crises and homelessness and requiring additional steps to be taken before executing a no-knock search warrant.

Other areas for potential improvement include improving whistleblower protections and improving police department review procedures after an incident that included the use of police force.

What to Do If You Are the Victim of Police Brutality

Even with these welcome reforms, police brutality remains a risk in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin. You may have suffered a severe injury or your loved one may have died because of a police officer’s use of force. If this has happened to you, then we encourage you to contact our experienced Wisconsin police brutality lawyers as soon as possible for a free consultation.

Our firm secured one of the largest police brutality settlement in Wisconsin history, and we use the same dedication, skill, and experience for all of our police brutality clients.

We would be happy to review your police brutality claim free of charge and to offer you our Win or It’s Free Guarantee if we take your case.

Contact the attorneys in any of our Wisconsin offices, including Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, or Wausau, today to schedule your free initial consultation.


Jason F. Abraham
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Helping car accident and personal injury victims throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa since 1993.