“Officer Ray’s” FPC Appointment Okayed
Committee approves appointment of retired officer to police oversight board.
Unlike a number of recent Fire and Police Commission (FPC) appointments, Raymond Robakowski‘s has been relatively conflict-free.
Mayor Tom Barrett, at the suggestion of Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, appointed the retired Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) officer to serve on the city’s independent public safety oversight board.
Robakowski had his first confirmation before the council’s Public Safety & Health Committee on Thursday morning. The committee endorsed his confirmation, which will next go before the full council.
“Public service and community has been important to me as long as I can remember,” said Robakowski as he read a prepared speech to the committee.
“I believe in an old school way of being a cop, being firm and fair, getting to know people,” he added.
He described himself as a believer in community-oriented policing and restorative justice.
“My goal and vision for serving on the Fire and Police Commission can best be described in the context of my values,” said Robakowski. He said he would bring transparency, fairness, honesty and integrity to every decision.
“If anything, I will bend over backward to ensure my approach is fair and balanced,” said the nominee. That could be a greater challenge to Robakowski than other commissioners. Both of his two sons work in law enforcement, with one of his children working for the Milwaukee Police Department. The FPC handles disciplinary and termination decisions for both the fire and police departments.
“He’s one of the few people… that brought respect across the spectrum,” said Hamilton. “It’s time for us to try to start pushing the Fire and Police Commission in the direction where we can start building that trust.”
The retired officer drew praise as “genuine” from Alderman Mark Borkowski, in whose district he resides. Ald. Scott Spiker called him a “straight shooter.” Ald. Robert Donovan said he was pleased with Robakowski’s nomination.
Robakowski spoke at a public hearing regarding his appointment at the Washington Park Senior Center Wednesday night.
“If I wasn’t impressed before, I can honestly say last night as I was sitting in the audience, each and every time a question was asked I thought you nailed it,” said Borkowski. The alderman expressed surprise at how poorly attended the hearing was.
Stance on ICE
Ald. Jose G. Perez asked the most questions of the nominee. He pushed Robakowski to elaborate on his stance on police accountability.
“Accountability is huge and that’s where you get trust from,” said the nominee. He said it was important for officers to follow up with individuals and never promise something they couldn’t deliver. “That’s where I earned the trust from what I was doing, and I think of officers haven’t.”
Perez, who represents a majority Hispanic district, also asked Robakowski his thoughts on cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Perez abstained from voting on the appointment as a result. “I really want you to know the community’s side and my side,” said Perez. He called for the two to meet in advance of a Common Council meeting in two weeks.
The appointment passed the committee on a 3-0-1 vote with Perez abstaining. Alderwoman Chantia Lewis was absent.
In 2018 the council approved retired firefighter Everett Cocroft, an African American, after a contentious hearing where Cocroft defended a 2016 email he sent to the council and other city officials that said police officers were only guarding their “wallets, pension and benefits.”
The commission, under the direction of executive director Griselda Aldrete, has recently suffered two public resignations. The Common Council is scheduled to review changes to the body on Thursday afternoon.
“Officer Ray,” as Robakowski introduced himself during his time with MPD, is a 1975 graduate of Notre Dame High School, and has been married to his high school sweetheart for 42 years. In addition to his son working for MPD, his other son works for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office. He has three grandchildren.
Prior to his 24-year tenure with the MPD, according to Robakowski’s resume, he worked for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office as a property room supervisor from 1990 through 1995. That came at the end of a 19-year tenure with the county that included working with mental health and at the county’s hospital.
In 2012 Robakowski worked with area block watch member Clifford Ray to convert a vacant lot at N. 24th Pl. and W. Keefe Ave. into a community garden known as “Rays of Sunshine Community Garden.” He’s also received awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and Marquette University for his police work.
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