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Local police chiefs discuss DNC security participation

Posted at 10:36 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 23:40:33-04

(NBC 26) -- With less than three weeks until the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said more than 100 law enforcement agencies are no longer assisting with DNC security due to concerns over potential new policies regarding crowd control including the use of tear gas.

"We have to have those tools at our disposal when the crowds get unruly," said Morales.

The Fond du Lac Police Department is one of the agencies no longer going to Milwaukee to help during the DNC.

"Many of us, myself included have determined that we will not send our officers into a situation where they are being set up to fail," said Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb.

Lamb is also chair of the Wisconsin Police Executive Group. He said earlier this month, on behalf of the group, he sent a letter to Milwaukee officials sharing concerns of the possibility of a shortage of crowd controlling equipment like chemical irritant and pepper spray, as well as potential pressure on the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to enact policies related to the use of that equipment.

"Then last week, the Fire and Police Commission took action that literally validated those concerns when they directed Chief Morales to change department policy to discontinue use of those tools," added Lamb.

Lamb said that was "the stepping off point" for himself and some other chiefs to withdraw from commitments previously made to assist during the DNC.

"We believe that in doing so, they are seriously compromising the safety of not only the attendees at that event but also those who might otherwise live or work in that area and of course for the officers assigned to that security detail," said Lamb. "Ultimately, I believe, and that sentiment is shared by a number of other chiefs, that they are setting those officers up for failure, and we find that to be very troublesome."

NBC 26 reached out the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission for comment. We have not heard back at this time.

Lamb said they planned to send a baseline of up to 12 members of the field force team which he said is a crowd control team. He added that they always hope protests are peaceful but said law enforcement needs to be prepared for every possibility.

In Green Bay, Police Chief Andrew Smith said the plan is to still send the SWAT team to Milwaukee. He said it includes 15 officers, 2 supervisors, and one SWAT technician.

"At this point, we did make a commitment when the DNC was announce that we would support the Milwaukee Police Department by sending our SWAT team down there which is what they asked for," said Smith. "Nothing has changed in the rules of engagement for our SWAT team. We're still going to be doing the same things we were scheduled to be doing six months ago."

He said they are still able to use all the equipment the SWAT team comes with. He said the SWAT team from Green Bay will be handling the calls the SWAT team in Milwaukee would usually go on.

"I completely understand other chiefs' decisions based on what their assignment was. Our assignment is different, and our officers are going to be able to use all the tools that they bring on a regular SWAT call when they're in Milwaukee," explained Smith.

Smith added that they still plan to respond to Milwaukee for the DNC unless what he calls "rules of engagement" change significantly.

Morales said he's concerned if they'll have enough law enforcement to protect Milwaukee and visitors at the DNC. He said he doesn't reject getting help from the National Guard or federal government. He added that when it comes to peaceful protests, they don't need a police presence, but said when they turn violent, it's important that they have less-lethal tools at their disposal.

The Fire and Police Commission is expected to discuss tear gas and pepper spray at their meeting this Thursday.