The Milwaukee city purchasing department has removed bid requests for “safety equipment” police need for the Democratic National Convention, after pressure from members of the Milwaukee Common Council, according to a news release from the Milwaukee Police Department.
The police sent out a news release on June 10 that was titled, “Common Council Removes Democratic National Convention Protective Equipment Bids.”
“The Milwaukee Police Department has been working diligently over the past fifteen months to provide a safe and secure event for the Democratic National Convention,” the press release states. “MPD was notified this afternoon that the bid requests for key safety equipment necessary for the Democratic National Convention has been removed by the Purchasing Department due to pressures by members of the Common Council without any input from the Secret Service, Milwaukee Police Department or any other law enforcement agency.”
According to WUWM, aldermen cited “the police department’s use of tear gas and rubber bullet during recent protests over police brutality.” Ald. Nik Kovac was one of those raising concerns about purchase bids, and he “said chemical irritants should never be used against American citizens, even in the hypothetical case of some kind of disturbance during a major event such as the DNC,” according to WUWM.
“Whatever weapons you give someone, they end up using, is a general rule of thumb,” Kovac said, according to WUWM. “If we’re really going to train police to be de-escalators, to humanize, to respect the First Amendment, we probably shouldn’t give them the tools where they can very easily not do that.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that police wanted “gas mask equipment, tactical gas delivery systems and aerosol projectors for irritants” and that police say it would be used in the event of “armed suspects, hostage situations and active shooters.” The city’s purchasing director, Rhonda Kelsey, told the newspaper that the bids have been cancelled. The Journal Sentinel reported that Kovac was concerned about what he called the “obvious misuse” of tear gas on George Floyd protesters.
The action comes amid calls by some activists to defund the Milwaukee Police Department on the heels of protests and riots over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales made strong comments recently in defense of police, saying, “Two-thousand-years ago, an angry mob came before people to say, crucify that man, that man being Jesus Christ, what are angry mobs doing today? Law enforcement throughout our nation is being crucified.” A group of aldermen then released a statement urging Morales to “Say Their Names!” and adding, “We want a police force that de-escalates, that respects, and that humanizes.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported June 10 that Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez “reaffirmed” that the Democratic National Convention will go ahead the week of August 17, saying Democrats plan “to have a safe and effective convention where we will highlight Joe Biden and his historic choice as a running mate.” This comes as news reports hit that Republicans might switch their convention from North Carolina to Jacksonville.
Here’s what you need to know:
Police Say They Requested the Bids Months Ago But an Aldermen Raised Concerns About ‘Militaristic’ Equipment
According to the police news release, the bids to be submitted by the City of Milwaukee Purchasing Department “were requested by the Milwaukee Police Department in February and March 2020. MPD had no role in the timing of the bids being released and the requests are in no way a response to the recent incidents that have occurred both locally and nationally.”
The police continued,
The Democratic National Convention and the thousands of participants visiting Milwaukee deserve a safe and successful event, which requires certain protective and tactical equipment. It is a standard request for most, if not all, law enforcement agencies called upon to provide security at a national security special event. The personal protective equipment and other devices that have been denied because of the Common Council are used to protect the community against armed suspects, hostage situations and active shooters.
For the protection of the Democratic National Convention, the thousands of participants and the residents of the City of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Police Department asks that the Common Council reconsider this course of action.
On the same day as the statement, Alderwoman Milele Coggs released her own news release that said she was introducing Common Council legislation “that would require the Milwaukee Police Department to disclose its current inventory of military-grade equipment–and a notice to the Council before it could purchase any such equipment.The two files – not yet assigned for a Council committee review – would require the MPD to provide notice to the Council about any planned purchases of militaristic or military-grade equipment, including weapons and items for tactical use.”
During today’s meeting of the Finance and Personnel Committee, discussion briefly focused on the disclosure that MPD is seeking bids on masks and a tactical (chemical) product that can be used as an irritant when aerosolized or sprayed. Currently, MPD is not required to provide notice to the Council when seeking bids on such militaristic items. MPD is reportedly seeking the aerosol item purchase in lieu of the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to take place in Milwaukee in August. Alderwoman Coggs said she believes it is important for the Council to be made aware of the inventory of military-grade equipment in MPD’s possession.
“We have seen questionable tactics used by Milwaukee Police during the recent protests against injustices, including smoke grenades to disperse peaceful protesters,” she said. “In the spirit of transparency and accountability with the public, I believe it is important for the Council to be aware of the kinds of militaristic equipment that MPD is planning to purchase with taxpayer dollars. I look forward to having this discussion in public very soon with my colleagues and representatives from MPD.”
You can find videos of City Hall meetings here.