Wisconsin sees 100 percent increase in officer-involved shootings

“We have a firearm issue,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Jeff Norman.
Germantown shooting scene.png
Posted at 4:40 PM, Oct 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-24 17:40:50-04

MILWAUKEE — Germantown police shot and killed a man who climbed on top of a middle school roof with a gun on Monday night. The department says the suspect fired shots at officers and the officers fired back.

Wisconsin Professional Police Association data shows it’s the 28th officer-involved shooting this year in Wisconsin. That’s twice as many as there were this time last year.

With 30 years of law enforcement experience, retired assistant Milwaukee police chief Ray Banks responded to several incidents that ended with a suspect being shot by an officer.

“I was never involved with the actual pulling of the trigger but I’ve been involved in multiple officer-involved shootings,” he said.

Officer-involved shootings are becoming far more common across the entire state, as evidenced by the 100 percent increase year over year.

“I never knew that number, but I’m not surprised and the reason I say I’m not surprised is because I know that the trend of violent behavior and the number of guns in our society has increased,” Banks said.

WPPA data highlights another trend that Banks believes is a major part of the broader problem. In 2016, just 50 percent of subjects shot by police were armed with a weapon. That jumped to 68 percent in 2021. WPPA says to its knowledge, every suspect shot this year by police had a gun or a knife on them.

“We have a firearm issue,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Jeff Norman.

During a news conference Tuesday on crime trends in Milwaukee, Police Chief Jeff Norman shared his concerns with the amount of guns on the streets that are in the hands of criminals and those in mental health crises.

“We need to come together,” he said. “There should be no reason why we have young adults in the hands of firearms. We should not have individuals who have long criminal histories involved with firearms.”

Banks says when officers know a suspect is armed with a weapon prior to arriving on scene, it requires a tactical approach.

“If an officer feels that there’s a threat, an imminent threat in front of him, that’s going to trigger that response,” he said. “It could be a movement, it could be a weapon actually being seen. So there are a number of factors that would go into that.”

As officer-involved shootings increase in Wisconsin, so too have the number of officers killed in the line of duty. 2023 marks the deadliest year for Wisconsin police in over two decades. Four officers were shot to death in the first half of the year, including Milwaukee police officer Peter Jerving back in February.

“This job has always been a very dangerous profession, but I now think the proliferation of guns into our society, the more guns makes it more dangerous, absolutely,” Banks said.

The spike in officer-involved shootings isn’t just a Wisconsin trend, FBI data shows it’s happening nationwide. Fatal police shootings have increased each year across America going back to 2015. It’s a trend Banks believes can only be turned around if the proliferation of guns and the urge to solve conflict with violence is addressed.