- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Milwaukee police angered by the firing of an officer who shot and killed a man in a downtown park took a vote expressing a lack of confidence in their chief, but the city’s mayor said Friday that he was standing by Edward Flynn.

Flynn fired Officer Christopher Manney on Oct. 15, saying Manney instigated the fight that led to the shooting with an inappropriate pat-down. Manney has appealed the firing.

Union president Mike Crivello said 99 percent of the officers who participated in the non-binding vote expressed no confidence in Flynn, who Crivello accused of prioritizing “political appeasement” over safety.

“Any reasonable officer would have conducted themselves as Officer Manney did,” Crivello said.

The April 30 shooting sparked months of peaceful protests. Dontre Hamilton, 31, was sleeping in the park when Manney responded to a call from a nearby business. Manney said in a written account to police officials that he realized Hamilton was mentally ill and feared he might have a weapon, so the officer began a pat-down. A fight began, Hamilton grabbed the officer’s baton and struck him with it, and Manney shot Hamilton 14 times.

Hamilton’s family has said he had schizophrenia but was not violent.

Flynn called the no-confidence vote a “blatantly political move” by union leaders seeking to increase their own power.

“We have a number of officers in this police department who are expressing support for one of their colleagues in a difficult moment. I understand that and I respect it,” he said. “And we have a political leadership of the (union) that’s making a political statement. I don’t respect that.”

Flynn fired Manney for instigating the fight that led to the shooting, saying mental illness alone doesn’t justify a search. He said Friday that if he doesn’t hold officers accountable for poor decisions that have tragic consequences, criminal charges are the only alternative.

The district attorney’s office has asked a national use-of-force expert to look at the case before deciding whether to file charges.

Mayor Tom Barrett defended Flynn, accusing union leaders of “trying to stoke a political fire.”

“I have complete confidence in Police Chief Flynn and the hard-working members of the rank and file,” Barrett said in a statement.

Crivello said declined to say how many of the union’s 1,600 members participated in Thursday’s vote.

The leader of a nonprofit group focused on law enforcement management and police policy called the vote “predictable.” Union leaders only call no-confidence votes when they are certain of the outcome, and they typically do it to protest policy changes or disciplinary actions, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

“Making tough decisions like Ed Flynn made in Milwaukee results in the rank-and-file voting no confidence, so for many police chiefs it’s a badge of honor,” Wexler said. “It’s what you get for doing the right thing.”

The last time Milwaukee officers voted no confidence in a chief was 1991 after Philip Arreola fired two officers for leaving a 14-year-old boy with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed the teen soon after. Arreola remained in office until 1996.

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