Trouble at Fire & Police Commission?
Second public resignation and much staff turnover under new executive director.
“As much as I have loved my work, the current management team has in a very short period of time demonstrated a frightening ignorance of FPC operations, shown no apparent knowledge of industry norms for public safety oversight investigations, and worse, fostered an environment of mistrust and cronyism, rather than trying to build a strong independent team,” said Patane in her four-page letter.
The commission, which includes a nine-member citizen body and up to 21-member staff, is tasked with providing independent oversight of the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Fire Department including policy directives and protocols as well as hiring, firing and other disciplinary decisions.
While never naming her, much of Patane’s criticism is targeted at Aldrete. The new Executive Director, the third in as many years, was appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett and confirmed by the Common Council in late July. Aldrete, who recently earned a law degree from Marquette University, drew praise from frequent Barrett critics Aldermen Mark Borkowski and Robert Donovan during her confirmation hearings.
Operations Manager Clifton Crump, who previously served as a special assistant to the mayor, resigned on Labor Day weekend, stating that he was being made a scapegoat by the new management. He stressed that the commission was struggling because of its many vacancies. Crump’s resignation caused Donovan to issue a press release critical of Barrett’s perceived lack of leadership.
Patane, who served as a detective with the Milwaukee County Sheriff‘s Department before coming to the commission in 2008, said of the 13 employees in the department when Aldrete started, Crump has quit, two employees have taken leave for stress, two staff members have resigned and three staff members have been fired. “This workplace changed from a collaborative, knowledgeable and seasoned team of public servants to a hostile, toxic, and retaliatory place guided by inexperience, ignorance and indifference,” wrote Patane.
Patane charged that Aldrete reordered the organization chart to no longer oversee the investigators, who are now being trained by MPD instead of an outside organization. “This shift in accountability and demonstrable lack of intellectual inquisitiveness or insight into the citizen complaint process by the current Executive Director is stunning,” wrote Patane. She accused “management” of routing findings that require corrective action or disciplinary action through MPD instead of through the citizen commissioners as protocol dictates.
Patane’s criticisms echo and add to those that activist Paul Mozina has been raising in recent weeks. Mozina, who has served as a watchdog on the city’s settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), raised concerns in a conversation with Urban Milwaukee that power was being consolidated in the hands of the Executive Director, that public comment was being eliminated from the start of commission meetings and that work to comply with the complicated settlement was not being performed.
Patane shared similar concerns in her letter. “Speaking of legal exposure, this management team has also notably failed to implement strategies to perform mandated audits of MPD duties as identified within the ACLU lawsuit agreement,” wrote the veteran investigator.
Aldrete did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
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