Members of the Milwaukee Police Department’s elite Major Incident Response Team (MIRT) are on the national stage again – this time supporting Chicago Police in their efforts to maintain order during the NATO protests this past weekend through today.
MIRT, founded in 2002, counts 300 officers in its highly-trained force. Officers from all districts, bureaus and shifts of the MPD are trained in crowd management and are certified in HazMat response. The wide range of officers who are MIRT trained ensures that no matter what time of day an incident requiring the team would occur, there are trained officers working during that shift.
MIRT, under the command of Capt. Stephen Basting, has been called to assist before: in Madison during last year’s Capitol disturbances, in Pittsburgh at the G-20 in 2009 and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008. Additionally, the team has been deployed here at home during the Occupy demonstrations; demonstrations that produced a very different result in Milwaukee from the violent uprisings seen elsewhere around the country. MIRT commanders met with demonstrators and developed relationships with the local organizations beforehand, and maintained contact throughout.
“We value the First Amendment right and we take that seriously,” Basting said. “We are here to facilitate the freedom of speech for all.”