Council Votes for Authority to Fire Flynn
Requests state law giving them power to fire police and fire chiefs. Mayor promises a veto.
The Milwaukee Common Council is asking the state for a simple statutory change with potentially huge impact. On a 8-6 vote, the council approved a request for the city’s lobbyist to ask the state for a law that would allow the council to fire the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Fire Department chiefs if two-thirds of members approve such a motion. But in an interview after the vote, Mayor Tom Barrett stated “we’ll veto it by the end of the day.”
While the fire chief is included in the legislation, it’s clear the real issue is the responsiveness of police chief Edward A. Flynn to members of the council. Regarding the propsed COP House Initiative, alderman Tony Zielinski referenced a conversation with Flynn, “I said chief, when are you going to get back to me about the email I sent you? He said ‘I’m not going to get back to you.'”
Ald. Mark Borkowski is equally flabbergasted by the chief’s performance, noting “How many times have each and every one of us had a complaint about the police deptartment, in particular the police chief, and how many times has he said ‘I don’t have have to listen to you?'”
And even if the council overturns the mayor’s coming veto, it faces an uphill battle to get support in from the Republican-controlled legislature in Madison, a fact Borkowski acknowledged in his remarks: “I don’t think any of us have any illusions of grandeur that this is going to (the) legislature and be passed.”
That didn’t dissuade Borkowski, who went on to note “if I have to hear anything more about data driven stuff I’m going to puke. I’ll tell you what, we’re in the fourth straight year of having 140 homicides. And yet this data driven, I don’t know what you call it, that is supposed to make all these things better for us, we still have 140 homicides.”
Zielinski, in response to Bohl, stated “I think quite the contrary, if any applicant comes forward for a position of police chief and they know that we have this legislation on the books the type of candidate we want will be the type of candidate that comes forward.”
The fire and police chiefs, unlike other cabinet level positions, are currently appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the mayor-appointed Fire and Police Commission.
Said Ald. Terry Witkowski: “I think it’s really poor legislation that would take a position like this and make it dance to 15 people’s whims for what they think should be done.” Witkowski’s comments were echoed by alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, who said that while she shares the concerns of many of her colleagues regarding Flynn, “my vote on this issue will not be based solely on the person that sits in that office.”
The measure was sponsored by council members Zielinski, Borkowski, Jose G. Perez, Russell W. Stamper, II, Khalif Rainey and Robert Bauman. Council members Nik Kovac and Chantia Lewis joined the sponsors in voting to approve the legislation.
When asked about potential changes between the way the fire and police chiefs interact with the council, the mayor stated “a relationship is a two-way street, you have to work at it, you can’t just expect someone to do everything you want them to do. And whether it’s the chief himself or his command staff, or the captains in the stations, I think there is a lot of interaction between the police hierarchy and the alderman, and I think there should be. And I think that’s something that can always be strengthened.”
Flynn was first appointed police chief in 2008.
The measure comes after Flynn’s responsiveness was a subject of scorn from the council virtually all summer as the council held federal funds from being allocated to the department in an attempt to get a response from the chief.
Ten of 15 council members would have to vote for the measure to overturn a mayoral veto.
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