Fire and Police Commission sustains Manney’s firing

March 26, 2015

By Steve Waring
Special to the Milwaukee Times
(Part 1 of a 3-part series)
A three-panel jury consisting
of members of the Milwaukee
Fire and Police Commission
upheld Police Chief
Edward Flynn’s decision to
fire Christopher Manney after
the 12-year, decorated
veteran shot and killed Dontre
Hamilton, a 31-year-old
African American man after
a ‘pat down’ search of Hamilton
escalated into a physical
altercation at Red Arrow
Park on April 30, 2014.
The hearing was the first
test of a new more stringent
Milwaukee Police Dept. policy
on so-called ‘pat down’
searches and also the first test
of a process that includes
more civilian oversight of
police disciplinary decisions.
During the unprecedented
five-day hearing lawyers for
Manney, 38, noted that during
more than 12 years of
service, the former officer
had accumulated just one
minor infraction (missing a
court date) while earning a
Lifesaving Award as well as
numerous other commendations.
He had also removed
more than 50 illegally concealed
weapons during previous
searches that were considered
However a few months before
the fatal encounter with
Hamilton, the Milwaukee
Police Dept., adopted a more
stringent policy before an officer
could initiate a so-called
‘pat down’ search of outer
garments. Previously an officer
need only notice a bulge
in clothing or have a suspicion
that the subject was carrying
a weapon in order to
initiate a search. Under the
more stringent policy modified
in June 2013, an officer
must notice a weapon and
have a reasonable fear that
the subject intends to use it
against either the officer or
someone else. Profiling of
any kind, including home- lessness, as was alleged in
the citizen complaint against
Hamilton, are prohibited.
Another policy change
made in January 2014 modi- fied the policy that Milwau- kee police officers are to use
when approaching subjects
for questioning. Manney was
justified in using deadly force,
but was fired for violating the
new policies on approaching
subjects and justification for
initiating a ‘pat down’. Ironi- cally Hamilton was neither
homeless nor armed. He was
previously diagnosed as suf- fering from schizophrenia,
according to his family.
There have been a number
of delays in the hearing. Manning
was officially fired Oct.
15, 2014, but the date for the
appeal seemed to keep receding
into the distant future.
The Hamilton family, in cooperation
with the Coalition
for Justice, began to organize
numerous protest marches
first seeking to have the officer
fired and then to hold the
public hearing. The shooting
tapped into fears many African
Americans have that police
are more likely to shoot
and kill black suspects than
white ones. Several high profile
shootings or deaths while
in police custody have occurred
nationally within the
past year.
After the commission
members upheld the deci- sion to fire Manney, several
members of the Hamilton
family, including Dontre’s
mother, Maria, thanked their
supporters and promised to
expand their movement to
hold police accountable for
wrongful deaths of African