After months of consideration, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission has banned chokeholds without exception.
Dozens of community members spoke in favor of the ban before the commission voted unanimously in its favor Thursday evening. Milwaukee social worker Briana Loughan said she’s been “hit, pinched, bitten, scratched, punched and etc.” by clients with mental illness or developmental disorders.
“In all of these circumstances, I have never needed to restrict someone’s airway in order to effectively deescalate,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the commission has taken up the topic of chokeholds. The process began more than a year ago, noted Nelson Soler, the commission’s chair. In December, the board voted to ban the use of neck restraints “unless the (officer) is involved in a deadly force situation and has reasonably exhausted all other options and tactics.”
The full ban was introduced by Commissioners Angela McKenzie and Everett Cocroft. The board intended to fully eliminate chokeholds in December, but received the “wrong version” of the updated Standard Operating Procedure, Cocroft explained Thursday.
Commissioner Amanda Avalos said she’s received hundreds of emails and letters in support of banning chokeholds altogether.
“With tonight’s vote, we can make progress for Milwaukee,” she said.
The Peoples Revolution, a group that’s held scores of protests since the murder of George Floyd last year, organized a press conference before Thursday’s meeting, and afterward released a statement applauding the board’s decision.
“Thank you for not placing a chokehold on the voices of the people,” it reads.
After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd — a 46-year-old Black man — last month, Milwaukee’s acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said he opposes the use of chokeholds, noting they’re not taught to Milwaukee police officers.
“We don’t train it, we don’t support it,” he said.
The Milwaukee Police Association did not respond to an interview request Friday.
The use of chokeholds in Milwaukee made headlines this week after a judge ruled in favor of releasing the video of former Milwaukee police officer Michael Mattioli allegedly strangling Joel Acevedo while off duty last year. Mattioli has been charged with murder.
Across the country, many communities instated chokehold bans last year. Gov. Tony Evers advocated for a statewide ban on Juneteenth, but the move seems unlikely. A state task force on law enforcement policies and standards — featuring legislators, community members and law enforcement representatives — recommended limiting, not eliminating, the use of chokeholds last month.
Recommendations from the task force have been approved by a Senate committee and can now be scheduled on the Senate floor, Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, announced Friday.