A Step, In Wauwatosa, Toward Banning Police Chokeholds

Jun 26, 2020

A citizens panel in Wauwatosa is recommending a ban on police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants. It also wants Wauwatosa police officers to wear body cameras.

Wauwatosa is in the police reform spotlight after word recently surfaced that the Wauwatosa officer who shot Black teenager Alvin Cole to death outside Mayfair Mall in February was the same one who had fatally shot two other men, Jay Anderson, Jr. and Antonio Gonzales, about five years ago. Those two cases involving officer Joseph Mensah were ruled self-defense, while the February shooting is under review.

Meanwhile, activists want other changes in the city's police force. Thursday night, Wauwatosa's Equity and Inclusion Commission went along with recommending body cameras, and bans on no-knock search warrants and police chokeholds or other strangulation techniques. Commission Chair Sean Lowe says he doesn’t just want better police-community relations.

"Personally, I would want the best police-community [relations,] and that the city of Wauwatosa will set the model for each and every suburb in the state of Wisconsin. We will be the model under my leadership of the Equity and Inclusion Commission. I won't allow anything otherwise,” Lowe told WUWM.

>>How Decades Of Bans On Police Chokeholds Have Fallen Short

After Thursday night's meeting, Black Lives Matter demonstrators briefly gathered in the parking lot of Wauwatosa City Hall.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

More than two dozen Black Lives Matter protesters filled the Wauwatosa Common Council chambers, occasionally offering comments to the commission. More demonstrators waited outside. A leader of the movement, Frank Nitty, says there were a lot of victories.

"I'm very excited. I think that everything we asked them to pass, they pretty much were on our side. To have a commission, a council, that's literally on the side of the people, that's what the goal is. We get this duplicated in Milwaukee, it'll be a success everywhere,” Nitty said.

But first, the Wauwatosa Common Council has to endorse the recommendations, a process that could take weeks or months, if it happens at all.