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Ruling puts Milwaukee new security personnel ordinance on hold

Emil Ovbiagele

Emil Ovbiagele

Ruling puts Milwaukee new security personnel ordinance on hold

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A judge will decide April 17 if an injunction against the implementation of a new City of Milwaukee ordinance regarding security personnel will stay in place throughout the duration of a legal challenge.

On March 21, the Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordinance regarding employees whose job responsibility is to maintain the security of a premise requiring them to be licensed, bonded and insured. The ordinance includes onsite employees, an establishment’s contractor or an employee of a third-party security firm hired by a business.

A group of businesses filed a complaint on April 3 against the ordinance saying it “not only stands in direct conflict with Wisconsin state law but also violates fundamental principles of due process and constitutional rights.” It further cited the ordinance’s vagueness, overbreadth and effect on civil rights.

On Wednesday (April 10), the court granted a temporary restraining order suspending enforcement of the ordinance until April 17 when a decision will be made to extend the temporary restraining order pending the case’s adjudication.

“The ordinance goes beyond state law and the way it’s written is so broad that anyone from bouncers to ID checkers could be affected,” said Emil Ovbiagele, founding partner of OVB Law & Consulting S.C., who is representing the plaintiffs in the case. Ovbiagele also serves as President of the Milwaukee Bar Association.

He added the rule was imposed on businesses and affected individuals without any lead time for compliance. “Usually, there’s a 60- or 90-day ramp-up but not with this rule.”

Milwaukee City Ordinance 84-55 was proposed in response to the death of Isaiah Allen at a northside convenience store. Prosecutors accused William Pinkin, who was working at the gas station as a security guard, of shooting Allen after he left the store without paying for snacks. Pinkin was convicted of homicide in 1990 and spent time in prison. He was released in 2018, but went back to prison the next year and was released again in March 2023 – and had been banned from carrying a gun. The store’s owner did not run a background check on Pinkin before hiring him.

As part of the ordinance, applicants for the new license must be 18 or older; have no record of arrests or convictions of a misdemeanor; no felony convictions, unless pardoned; and must not abuse alcohol or drugs. They must also be issued a bond or liability policy for $2,000, which would require a background check. Licenses are valid for two years and come with a $100 fee.

Ovbiagele said the rule unfairly affects the Black and brown communities, who have a higher incarceration rate and wouldn’t be permitted to get the license. One of the plaintiffs in the case, Brandon Miller, has worked as a non-arms-bearing security personnel for 15 years and his employment would be jeopardized due to a past felony conviction.

“This not only affects his immediate financial stability but also impedes his efforts towards rehabilitation and societal reintegration,” according to the court documents.

In addition to Miller, other plaintiffs include Revel Group, Inc., Always Towing & Recovery, Inc., 5700 Court LLC, Holt Logistics Corp. and 7330 Development LLC.

Wisconsin’s private security regulations provide an exemption from occupational licenses for any person who is an “employee of a commercial establishment, while the person is acting within the scope of his or her employment and whether or not he or she is on the employer’s premises.”

“The Milwaukee ordinance is tougher (than the state law). Politicians had good intentions and they want to look like they are doing something instead of doing something right,” Ovbiagele said.

He said businesses had little input in formulating the ordinance and they are the ones who will be most affected since they now have extra hoops to jump through along with extra costs.


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