Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Chief Morales Reappointed for Four Years

Commission grants police chief a full term, requires public meeting, reports.

By - Dec 18th, 2019 11:40 pm
Police chief Alfonso Morales speaks to the Fire and Police Commission. Image from City of Milwaukee/Channel 25.

Police chief Alfonso Morales speaks to the Fire and Police Commission. Image from City of Milwaukee/Channel 25.

Alfonso Morales will continue to serve as the Chief of Police in Milwaukee.

The Fire and Police Commission (FPC), the city’s independent public safety oversight body, voted Wednesday evening to reappoint Morales to a four-year term as the city’s top public safety official.

The move comes less than a week after commission chair Steven M. DeVougas said he was in “no rush” to schedule the reappointment of Morales. But after former Milwaukee Police Department officer Raymond Robakowski‘s appointment to serve as the commission’s seventh member was confirmed Tuesday morning, the commission called a Wednesday 8:30 p.m. special meeting to review Morales’ role with just over 25 hours notice.

Robakowski’s appointment proved to be an important one. Morales was confirmed on a 4-2-1 vote, with Robakowski, Nelson Soler, Angela McKenzie and Ann Wilson voting for the chief. DeVougas and Everett Cocroft, who had sought to delay the process to allow more public input, voted against the reappointment. Commissioner Fred Crouther abstained from voting without explanation.

The vote followed almost two hours of public testimony from nearly 40 people. Twenty-five community members, including the head of the Milwaukee Police Association, U.S. District Attorney Matt Krueger, a member of the Secret Service and a handful of business owners, spoke in favor of the reappointment. Many wore “#mychief” stickers.

Fourteen community members, including prominent activists Vaun Mayes, Nate Hamilton, Paul Mozina and Solana Patterson-Ramos, spoke in favor of a delay and the need for process and transparency. They were joined by Senator Lena Taylor, a mayoral candidate, and her chief of staff Michelle Bryant.

“This isn’t really about Chief Morales,” said Mayes. “When people ask that the process be slowed, be delayed, it’s about respect for the process.”

“Since just maybe we might get a new mayor, we should not make a decision on the chief,” said Taylor, reversing her statement from a press conference in early December that the FPC needs to be respected as an independent body. Mayor Tom Barrett has publicly endorsed a four-year term for Morales.

Morales has held the post since early 2018, having been appointed to fill the remaining term of Chief Edward A. Flynn, who retired after holding the post for 10 years. His contract was set to expire January 7th.

The reappointment comes with conditions. Soler, who made the motion and promised to provide a written document later, said Morales must provide a report in six months on a number of factors including compliance with settlements, the impact of the pursuit policy, staffing issues, updates on police response time and 911 call center management and the implementation of dispatching versus prevention initiatives.

Cocroft had attempted to amend Soler’s motion to delay the vote and require Morales to first hold two community meetings, one on the north side and one on the south side. Before Cocroft referenced the delay, Morales said “absolutely” to holding the meetings. After a substantial back-and-forth with deputy city attorney Miriam Horowitz on the rules, which included DeVougas stating “I hate parliamentary procedure,” Soler rejected Cocroft’s amendment. The commission started voting, and before it could finish many in the room broke into applause. DeVougas had to use his gavel to ensure his no vote could be heard above the clapping.

But after the vote was over McKenzie made it clear that at least one meeting will still happen. “That was very difficult. That was very divided. That is literally the essence of Milwaukee, divided, difficult, there is no reason for that,” said McKenzie of the community comments. “I want to see something set up. It’s time to heal.”

“By the first week of January I want to see this done,” said McKenzie, who then learned Morales would be on vacation over that period. The meeting was pushed off to the second week of January with McKenzie to serve as the point person alongside FPC Executive Director Griselda Aldrete.

After the vote Morales thanked the commissioners for their support.

The vote comes after weeks of turmoil for the department. A public resignation, critical of Aldrete, set off a wave of concern that resulted in a contentious meeting between Aldrete, representatives of MPD and the Milwaukee Fire Department and the Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee. Aldrete presented information on staffing shortages, terminations and trespassing by individuals into the FPC office at night, raising concerns among council members even as representatives of the police and fire departments praised her.

Last week, Urban Milwaukee published an article on how poor record keeping by commission staff and resistance from the police department helped killed a residency preference process for MPD promotions. A report from the Wisconsin Justice Initiative also found that Aldrete had inaccurately reported her teaching experience on her resume.

Yesterday the Milwaukee Police Association publicly asked DeVougas to resign, saying DeVougas representing his boss Kalan Haywood at the Haywood Group during a police department inquiry was an ethical violation due to his police oversight role. Before the vote Wednesday, DeVougas, an attorney, said he has never been more proud to be on the commission or live in the city.

Nine members of the Common Council signed a letter Wednesday morning asking for the Morales’ reappointment process to be delayed to allow a “fair process” with public input. That letter was read into the record by Aldrete before the vote.

About Alfonso Morales

A second-generation Mexican-American, Morales and his wife live on the city’s northwest side with their two children. He is a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools and Carroll University.

Morales’ experience with the department clearly was a factor in his community support. He was first appointed as a rank-and-file officer in 1993, becoming a detective in 1999, a lieutenant in 2003 and District Two captain in 2013. Before becoming chief in February 2018, he ran the department’s Safe Neighborhood High-Value Target program. Speakers had stories about meeting him at virtually every step in his climb of the MPD ladder.

In 2002, in a courtroom in the Milwaukee County Courthouse, Morales shot and killed an individual that had seized the gun of a sheriff’s deputy shortly after being declared guilty of murder. Morales was also a finalist in 2017 to be appointed as a replacement for Sheriff David Clarke, who resigned.

Morales’ reappointment comes at a pivotal time for the city’s police department. The department will be stretched thin during the Democratic National Convention with minimum staffing levels in much of the city while over 4,000 police officers, more than 2,800 from other agencies, guard the convention.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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