Former MPD Officer Christopher Manney Appeals Firing
Thursday marked day one of the appeal hearing for former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney. It’s been nearly one year since he fatally shot Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed, mentally ill black man in Red Arrow Park. While no criminal charges were filed, Manney was fired late last year for violating what the police department says are its rules when it comes to pat-downs.
The Municipal Court building in downtown Milwaukee was full of Hamilton supporters on Thursday night. Around 50 members of the public were allowed in the room. On one side, 25 in support of Dontre Hamilton identified by yellow stickers. On the other side of the room, 25 Manney supporters wearing green stickers.
Police say the division was in the interest of public safety and differing opinions, though everyone acted respectful toward one another.
Steven DeVougas, Kathryn Hein and Sarah Morgan, three of the seven Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission members are acting as jurors. Judge Michael Skwierawski has taken on the role of hearing examiner. He made clear on Monday that this appeal is not the conversation he understands many in the community were hoping for.
“There are many people in the community who believe there ought to be a conversation and a discussion that we the police department, the police, the community…the rules need to be examined, department’s practices and policies some people believe need to be examined. All of those things are good things and need to be done, but that’s a different meeting,” Skwierawski says.
What’s at question during the first phase is whether Manney violated the department’s rules when it comes to pat-downs.
If it is found that he did, then phase two of the hearing will determine whether the discipline was appropriate. The burden of proof lies on the police department. Thursday, attorneys on both sides gave opening statements.
The attorney for the police department said they would prove using Manney’s own words that a pat-down never should have happened because there was no real reason to believe Hamilton had a weapon.
Manney’s attorney actually argued that the pat down never occurred because Hamilton became violent.
Three witnesses also took the stand. The two officers who originally responded to calls from a Starbucks employee concerned about Hamilton sleeping near their Red Arrow Park location. The third witness to testify was someone from MPD internal Affairs.
The appeal will start back up at around 4:30 this afternoon, going until around 9 pm. It’s also scheduled for all day Saturday and Monday evening if needed.