Once again, our community must respond to a tragedy in which a person of color, in this instance a vulnerable African American man, has lost his life when a City of Milwaukee Police Officer fired up to 10 shots, striking him numerous times. We know that this is not new, but Dontre Hamilton’s death is merely the latest in a string of incidents too numerous to mention.
This time it happened in broad daylight, during the middle of the afternoon, in the heart of the City’s downtown and theater district, across the street from City Hall. It is a sad and unfortunate day whenever a person’s life is ended. When that loss of life occurs under circumstances that are questionable and, particularly, at the hands of police, who are supposed to be protecting us, we must be alarmed.
We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victim’s family and friends. We will await the police investigation and we welcome the outside investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation that is occasioned by the new Michael Bell law. Moreover, we ask the U.S. Justice Department to add this incident to the list of incidents that the community has asked it to investigate involving the Milwaukee Police Department in recent years.
We must confront our deficiencies and develop policies, procedures and actions to effect change. These should contain measurable features that allow us as a community to hold ourselves accountable. We must address issues relating to the needs of emotionally or mentally unstable persons. We can look at the actions of other cities such as Houston, Albuquerque and others, and identify best practices for crafting solutions that work for both citizens and law enforcement.
We need an acceleration of plans for more mental health treatment and services. We need to take specific actions to address the systematic injustice and inequality in our community.
James H. Hall, Jr., President
NAACP – Milwaukee Branch