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City alderman, citing national news, asks about police use of force policy

City alderman, citing national news, asks about police use of force policy

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RACINE — Alderman Terry McCarthy is asking Police Chief Art Howell to give him and his fellow City Council members a review on the department’s policy regarding use of force.

McCarthy said the request to have Howell speak on the issue before the Committee of the Whole doesn’t stem from complaints he’s received about local policing. He simply wants the city to avoid the allegations of excessive force that have rocked communities elsewhere in the state and country.

“If anything were to happen in Racine, we should know how the Police Department would react,” McCarthy said. “If we have any concerns about that, this would be our chance to influence the policy, etc., maybe ahead of time.

“Every month there is something on the radio: the unnecessary use or force here, the unnecessary use of force there. I want to make sure we are prepared from a policy perspective, and procedural perspective. I want to know the chief’s thoughts on it and what he thinks makes sense.”

McCarthy said he wanted to make sure that in the event an incident occurred in which force was used, the City Council didn’t learn there was “official accepted policy” in place that they didn’t know about that didn’t make sense to them.

“I don’t want to be complaining afterwards. I want to be understanding ahead of time,” he said.

The city was recently hit by five lawsuits alleging civil rights violations. Although some complaints stem from incidents that occurred more than six years ago, a few allege excessive force. McCarthy said the suits weren’t “the direct motivator” for putting forward the request.

Howell, who has been chief since 2012, wrote in an email on Monday that it was important to accommodate McCarthy’s request “in the interest of maintaining transparency and building upon the respect, support and trust we’ve earned within the community.”

An agenda for this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting has already been set. But City Council President Dennis Wiser, who is the chairman of the Committee of Whole, said he hoped to arrange for Howell to speak at the committee before the City Council meeting in two weeks.


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