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Milwaukee police could get new handguns next year following lawsuit

Department-issued pistols have gone off 3 times in the last 2 years without officers pulling the trigger

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The words "Milwaukee Police" on the side of a building are illuminated by a line of light at nighttime
Lights shine on the outside of the Milwaukee Police Department on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Angela Major/WPR

Weeks after Milwaukee’s police union filed a lawsuit alleging officers had been injured when department-issued handguns discharged spontaneously, officials Monday announced a $450,000 plan to get new firearms for all Milwaukee police officers.

The plan calls for the Milwaukee Police Department to replace the existing Sig Sauer P320 service weapons with Glock 45 handguns. The new firearms would be paid for with funds from the department’s asset forfeiture fund, which includes money from the sale of property seized by the department from illegal operations.

Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Professional Police Association, said the lawsuit against the city will be dropped once the Milwaukee Common Council approves the plan. Union leaders said they had sued the city in an effort to get safer guns to officers.

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“I know that the members we represent will want a tool on our belt that will be trusted and reliable if they need to use it, and won’t cause injury to themselves or others unintentionally,” Wagner said during a press conference Monday.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said when he learned of the issue with the Sig Sauer P320 — which has injured at least two officers since 2020 because of the accidental discharges — that the situation was “completely unacceptable.”

“I made it clear at that time that there’s no higher priority than the safety of the people who protect our city,” Johnson said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said the firearms would likely be purchased and distributed to officers early next year if the plan is approved soon. The existing firearms would go back to the supplier.

In the meantime, he’s asking his officers to “follow the training” to remain safe.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Adam Maritato was unintentionally shot by another officer’s gun in 2020. The suit states that as Maritato and fellow officer Adam Parks were trying to place a person in the back of a squad car, Parks’ gun fired, striking Maritato in the leg.

Neither officer had drawn the gun or pulled the trigger, according to the suit.

Less than a year later, on Jan. 2, 2021, another Milwaukee officer’s gun inadvertently fired. Then on Sept. 10, as two officers were investigating a hit-and-run crash, one officer’s holstered gun went off, striking the other in the knee.

The Milwaukee union’s suit was not the only legal action filed by police across the nation related to the safety of the Sig Sauer.

In 2017, a Connecticut officer sued Sig Sauer, saying the company’s pistol shot him in the leg when he accidentally dropped it on the ground. Then in 2018, an officer in Virginia filed suit against the manufacturer, saying the gun fired into her thigh while she was removing it from the holster. Since then, officers have also filed lawsuits in Florida and Pennsylvania.

According to an article from New Hampshire Public Radio, the P320 pistol is used by law enforcement agencies across the country, and in 2017, was selected as the new sidearm for the U.S. Army, a contract worth up to $580 million.

Sig Sauer has maintained that the P320 is safe.

A Milwaukee committee will discuss the plan at a future date, according to a spokesperson for the common council.

Meanwhile, Wagner said the officer who was shot in September is still recovering and won’t be back on the streets for several months.

“He’s recovering, but it’s going to be a long road to recovery,” Wagner said.

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