It has happened again and again across the U.S.: police officers stop a suspect with an outstanding warrant, and someone ends up dead. Sometimes it’s the officer, sometimes the suspect. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Milwaukee faith leaders believe they can minimize the potential for those deadly confrontations, and at the same time improve employment prospects for the thousands of men and women wanted on warrants. Under a new program, churches would open their doors as safe havens where suspects could surrender without incident and work out penalties and payment plans to settle their legal obligations.
“This is going to free up more people to come out of the shadows and take care of those things that are keeping them from re-entering society and getting jobs,” said the Rev. Willie Brisco, president of the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, which has a $395,000 grant from the Medical College of Wisconsin to create the program. The Safe Surrender initiative will be modeled on similar programs launched by the U.S. Marshals Service and local authorities in other cities, including Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Detroit. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said “there are benefits for everyone involved.” He said, “Suspects are putting themselves in a better position than if they have a random encounter with law enforcement,” said Chisholm. “And law enforcement would much rather have a controlled setting, where people voluntarily turn themselves in, than a dynamic encounter on the street that can turn violent.”