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Panel Upholds Firing Of Police Officer In Dontre Hamilton Case

PFC Agrees Ex-Officer Manney Violated Department Rules Before Fatally Shooting Man In Downtown Park

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A fired white police officer in Milwaukee who killed an unarmed African-American man last year won’t be getting his job back. Monday night, Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission supported a decision by Police Chief Ed Flynn that Christopher Manney violated two department rules and deserved to be dismissed from the police force.

Supporters of Dontre Hamilton celebrate the FCP’s ruling not to reinstate Manney. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn testified at the hearing. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR.

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The three-member panel of the FCP had two decisions to make. The first was to evaluate Flynn’s finding, last fall, that patrolman Christopher Manney violated rules and training when beginning a pat-down of Dontre Hamilton at a downtown Milwaukee park in April 2014, and that Manney should have waited for backup before approaching Hamilton, who was sleeping on concrete.

“That those officers that follow that training are doing the right thing, and secondly, it sends the right message to the community that this department will not tolerate bad pat-downs and profiling,” Thomsen said.

Manney’s attorney, John Cermele, argued rulings against his client would send the wrong message, including to other police officers asked to respond to potentially dangerous calls.

“What’s the message it’s gonna send? ‘Don’t go in there, back off, wait, call for backup,’ even though you know you can handle this situation, because you don’t want to get ‘Manney-ed,’ all right?” Cermele told the panel.

Cermele also said the public will start thinking that officers won’t come quickly when help is needed.

The commissioners deliberated privately for about an hour. When they returned, they ruled Manney did violate the two department rules.

That touched off a tearful and muted celebration by Hamilton’s family, with supporters chanting “We won’t stop until we get justice.”

Then the commissioners took up phase two of the appeals hearing: whether Manney deserved to be fired.

Police Chief Flynn told the commissioners that Manney couldn’t come back to the department.

“What would I do with an officer who engaged in this level of incompetence? What is a role that officer could play in the Police Department in which I could take safely the risk that this employee would never be this incompetent again?” Flynn asked.

But the former officer made one more bid for his job back.

“I wanna be a cop, that’s who I am,” Manney said. “I’ve helped people my whole life and that career shows, even since I was 17, and that’s what I ask of you.”

After another, shorter deliberation by the panel came the ruling that the firing of Manney was justified and a more jubilant celebration by the Hamiltons and their supporters.

“I believe that we will win,” they chanted.

Dontre Hamilton’s brother Nathaniel said he hopes the rulings signal more fairness and truth in police-community interactions.

“We want truth, we want change, we want a better society to live in, we want better accountability,” Hamilton said.

Dontre’s mother, Maria Hamilton, said she’ll soon take the effort to Washington D.C., in a Million Moms March on Mother’s Day, marking the deaths of young African-Americans killed by violence.

“We’re gonna celebrate our moms and our families, and those lost victims, that have been taken by police and vigilantes in the United States over the last three years,” she said.

The family said there’s still likely to be a civil lawsuit against Christopher Manney for the shooting of Dontre Hamilton.