Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn and Fire and Police Commission Remain at Odds

Jul 25, 2017

Tension remains high between Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn and the Fire and Police Commission after it directed the chief to change the department’s pursuit policy. For years, the department has only allowed vehicle pursuits if there’s evidence of a violent felony. As concern over speed, reckless driving and vehicle thefts grow, so have calls to change the pursuit policy.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn changed the city’s vehicle pursuit policy back in 2010, after four people were killed by fleeing drivers. Since then, Flynn has maintained that officers should only give chase if they believe a violent felony is involved. Earlier this month, the Fire and Police Commission issued a directive that Flynn change the policy, allowing for pursuit if excessive reckless driving is involved among other things. That directive also noted that Flynn could face discipline and even be fired if he does not adhere. Steven DeVougas chair’s the commission. He appeared in front of a Milwaukee Common Council committee on Monday.

“We believe that the directive was lawful and within the authority of the Police and Fire Commission to do so. And without a formal request for an extension, I’m assuming that we’re going to get something in writing from the chiefs department by Thursday,” DeVougas says.

While Flynn is expected to respond by Thursday, he has also hired a lawyer. If a lawsuit is filed, the city attorney would represent the Fire and Police Commission, but DeVougas admits there are some concerns.

“Since the chief has gotten his own counsel, we might need to have our own counsel independently. Just because you don’t want to put the city attorney in an awkward position where they have you know too many masters and you don’t pick one. So that’s a concern, a very valid concern I feel like the board has at this point even though we understand this is how it’s always been done,” DeVougas says.

When it comes to City Attorney Grant Langley, he says he believes the commission is acting within its authority. Still he says he does have concerns about some of the substance of the directive but wouldn’t yet say exactly what.

“I would prefer again to discuss it with the Fire and Police Commission first. I don’t want to publicly discuss concerns we may have that generate litigation. I’m going to try to work it out with the Fire and Police Commission and if appropriate, the chief,” DeVougas says.  

Under state law, police departments are required to have written pursuit policies that consider road conditions, the type of crime and the number of people that live in area.