Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Barrett Must Rebuild Fire & Police Board

Powerful Fire & Police Commission needs new director and two new board members.

By - May 29th, 2019 06:11 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

After the overwhelming rejection of Denise Bartlett, Mayor Tom Barrett now needs to find two nominees to serve on the powerful Fire & Police Commission. He also needs to find a new executive director.

The seven-member commission, one of the most powerful such bodies in the United States, is responsible for hiring and firing police and fire chiefs, oversight of the public safety departments and approving major policies, like the recent change to again allow high-speed chases.

First and foremost, Barrett needs to find someone to replace commission member Marisabel Cabrera, who resigned after winning a seat on the Wisconsin State Assembly.

He also needs to replace Ann Wilson, who continues to serve on the commission until a replacement is found. Her term expired in 2017.

Barrett will also need to decide whether to reappoint Dr. Fred Crouther. The pastor’s term is scheduled to expire this year.

But an even bigger decision looms: who will replace the board’s executive director La Keisha Butler? Barrett will have to find a replacement for Butler after the city lobbyist spent a little over a year on the job.

Butler, who is out on maternity leave, is now listed as the “first lady” of First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL on the church’s website. Her husband, Don Darius Butler, was installed as the church’s new pastor in April. He previously led Tabernacle Community Baptist Church in Milwaukee.

All of the appointments will be subject to Common Council confirmation, a process that has become increasingly contentious.

Two of Barrett’s last three appointments have been rejected, William Gielow in 2018 and Bartlett earlier today.

What did the mayor think about Bartlett’s 3-11-1 rejection by the council?

“I’m not entirely surprised. At the same time we want to have individuals step forward, to have community service, to take part in community service. She has a long record of community service,” said Barrett in an interview.

“I think she had an opportunity to have her voice heard. That’s what she wanted to have happen, and that’s what happened.”

But her voice probably hurt her case. Alderman Robert Bauman, who voted against allowing Bartlett to address the council, called her attitude “petulant” after a half hour of listening to her answer questions.

“I felt that she was someone that came from a part of the city that doesn’t have much representation on the board,” said Barrett.

But the administration will need to do more than check the address and service record of the next candidate.

It surfaced during the confirmation process that Bartlett had written a letter to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2012 backing how police handled Derek Williams, who died while in their custody. Coincidentally, the council voted Wednesday to approve a $2 million settlement to Williams’ family.

“The mayor was unhappy and disturbed,” said Barrett’s spokesperson in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in early May after the letter surfaced.

Bartlett defended her letter before the council on Wednesday morning. Based on the reaction of multiple members of the council, that decision effectively ensured her rejection.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

One thought on “City Hall: Barrett Must Rebuild Fire & Police Board”

  1. Paul Mozina says:

    Jeramey, just a point a clarification…

    Per the FPC’s About page:

    “Under Wisconsin law and the Milwaukee City Charter, the Fire and Police Commission oversees all aspects of Fire Department and Police Department operations.”

    I notice that almost every article written about the FPC fails to clearly state that they are responsible for overseeing the OPERATIONS of the MPD and FPC. There is no “Chinese Wall” between policies and operations. The very acronym, SOP — Standard OPERATING Procedure — explains that.

    Yeah, I know, I’m yelling at y’all using ALL CAPS. I just don’t understand where the misunderstanding about the FPC’s statutorily mandated duties is coming from. Check the State Statues, City Charter, FPC rules and the FPC’s own website. It is the fact that the FPC has NOT been carefully reviewing and monitoring the operations of the MPD, including those operations that have not been formally presented to the FPC to be memorialized as an SOP, that has got us into the mess we are in now: mass incarceration and harassment of people of color, million dollar settlements, lawsuits and court orders, out-of-control budget…

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