Fire And Police Commission Finds No Misconduct In Death Of Man In Police Custody

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On July 28, 2012, employees of the Thurston Group Home called the Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) to report that John Kriewaldt, a mentally ill resident of the home, was throwing objects around and was a danger to himself and others. After no MPD officers responded for 90 minutes, employees of the home called the MPD again, this time saying that Mr. Kriewaldt was physically assaulting them. When MPD officers finally arrived, Mr. Kriewaldt slapped one of the officers, who then took him to the ground, arrested him and placed him in the back of an MPD squad car. Once in the squad car, Mr. Kriewaldt started banging his head on the metal divider between the front and back seats. The MPD officers then called the paramedics. As the paramedics were treating Mr. Kriewaldt’s forehead injury, he stopped breathing. Mr. Kriewaldt was then taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he died two days later.

On Monday, May 13, 2013, the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (“FPC”) released a report that cleared the MPD officers of any wrongdoing in the death of Mr. Kriewaldt. Specifically, the FPC report found that the MPD officers involved did not use excessive force and did not violate any MPD policies. Interestingly, the report fails to mention that the MPD failed to respond for 90 minutes, and only responded after staff from the home called the MPD a second time. Read the entire FPC report here.

The FPC issued the report under a new law passed by the City of Milwaukee Common Council following the death of Derek Williams in MPD custody back in July 2011. As previously reported on this website here, Mr. Williams died after he was placed in the back seat of an MPD squad car where he spent the last minutes of his life gasping for air and begging MPD officers for help. The FPC also cleared the MPD officers involved in Mr. Williams’ death of any wrongdoing.

The Milwaukee civil rights lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran represent the three young children of Derek Williams, along with their mother. We question whether the FPC can credibly review allegations of MPD officer misconduct. The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) is currently considering whether to conduct a review of the MPD to see whether there is a pattern and practice of MPD officers committing civil rights violations. We hope that the DOJ conducts the review, so that future constitutional rights violations can be prevented.

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