Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Mixed Results on ACLU Settlement Compliance

Settlement monitor praises commitment by FPC and MPD to getting into compliance.

By - Mar 26th, 2020 10:51 am
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A Milwaukee Police Department officer pulls over a driver on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A Milwaukee Police Department officer pulls over a driver on N. Broadway. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Almost two years in, the City of Milwaukee is still working to implement necessary policies, protocols and reporting methods to comply with a 49-page, $3.4 million settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union regarding racially disparate stop-and-frisk practices within the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD).

The Boston-based Crime and Justice Institute (CJI), the third-party consultant on the settlement, briefed the Common Council’s Judiciary & Legislation Committee Wednesday on the city’s progress implementing the complicated settlement. CJI representatives said the city is currently out of compliance on three matters, but has addressed others.

“I hope you can think about compliance as a process, rather than an event,” said CJI Executive Director Christine M. Cole. “There are a lot of things that need to happen. Some things might be compliant earlier than others.”

“During the first year there was progress and efforts really focused on creating administrative systems,” said Cole. She ticked off a list of standard operating procedures and new or improved processes, including accepting and tracking complaints. “The police department needs to roll those policies out with training.” She said training was a six-month program given the size and number of shifts at MPD.

According to CJI 38 percent of MPD “stops” lack sufficient documentation, as do 80 percent of MPD “frisks.” By July 2020, two years after the settlement was signed, MPD must lower those numbers to 15 percent.

CJI provides semi-annual reports on items not in compliance and annual reports on the entire settlement. “I believe this first report was really informative for them and gave them information on where to focus their efforts with the patrol division,” said Cole.

The CJI Executive Director said she has frequent conversations with MPD Chief of Staff Nick DeSiato. She’s also in regular contact with MPD Chief Alfonso Morales, Fire & Police Commission (FPC) Executive Director Griselda Aldrete, ACLU attorneys, the City Attorney’s Office, Mayor Tom Barrett‘s office and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton.

“You are kind of where we expected you to be,” said Cole. “We see focused attention on getting this done and frankly, more is even better.”

A second semi-annual analysis will be submitted to the city in the coming weeks. “This will be the first six-month period post training, which is really important,” said Cole.

An annual report will be submitted in July and made public in September. City officials have 60 days to respond to anything in the report before it becomes public.

Aldrete, who has led the FPC for just over six months, drew praise from Cole. “We are thrilled to have some sense of stability with the leadership in the FPC. Working with director Aldrete is similar to how I described the tenor of the relationship with the police.”

Aldrete was one of a handful of people present at City Hall for meeting and updated the committee on the FPC’s efforts.

Audit Issues Looming

“I am confident that we will continue to work hard,” said Aldrete. She said the organization produced its first progress report last week.

One of the tasks the FPC must perform to ensure compliance is to perform 24 annual audits.

FPC Risk Auditor Mike Doherty, speaking via video conference call, shared a series of charts with the committee detailing audit timelines. He detailed how he is currently the lone auditor in the commission and believes they will need four.

“If we’re going to use one auditor it’s going to be extremely challenging to be compliant,” said Doherty.

“Mr. Doherty, I know you have a wonderful presentation, but technically unless you had the eyes of a hawk you wouldn’t be able to read it,” said committee chair Alderman Mark Borkowski. Members attending the media in-person and remotely agreed.

But a bigger issue looms.

“We are losing Mr. Doherty to the Comptroller’s office,” said Aldrete. “He is not leaving because of the craziness of the office, the dysfunctionality, he’s taking a promotion. I want to say that publicly so that when the vacancy comes out it is not made into a fiasco.”

“Once FPC brings in an auditor, my goal is that the auditor will be able to understand we have a plan in place for each of these audits,” said Doherty. He pledged to be available to answer questions if needed.

“That’s what I like to hear from a team player,” said Borkowski.

“Does that give you any concern with the city’s ability to execute this audit plan?” Bauman asked the CJI representatives.

“If you can help recruit the person with the right skills I believe you will be able to get on track,” said Cole. “Michael is not going to be able to save the day even if he stays in that position. It’s just too much work for one human being.”

Ald. Robert Bauman pointed out that according to a recent report from Aldrete half of the department’s 28 positions were funded, but vacant.

“As we all know, hiring people in the city can take awhile,” said Aldrete. She said consultants could be considered an option in the short-run.

“It seems to me not enough is being done,” said Ald. Tony Zielinski. “If we don’t fill these positions we are going to have some major problems with complying with the court order here.”

Zielinski asked Borkowski to schedule a presentation from the Department of Employee Relations (DER) related to what can be done to speed things up.

“I want to reiterate, since day one I have been working with the Department of Employee Relations to assess the organization of the FPC as a whole,” said Aldrete.

Borkowski promised to schedule the personnel report for the committee’s next meeting. It is scheduled to meet again on April 8th.

The last time Aldrete and DER director Maria Monteagudo appeared before the council it resulted in a shouting match.

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Related Legislation: File 191831

One thought on “City Hall: Mixed Results on ACLU Settlement Compliance”

  1. Paul Mozina says:

    Thanks Jeramey for keeping this issue on everybody’s radar.

    You can watch the video of the meeting here: http://milwaukee.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2228

    The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners — the reason the the FPC was created back in 1885 — was completely absent from the discussion aside from one passing reference.

    And although the Mayor and others constantly refer to the Executive Director as leading the FPC, this is not the fact and it is the lack of accountability placed at the real head, or leader of “the department”, the Board of the Fire and Police Commission, that is at the root of the problem.

    We need 9 full-time FPC Commissioners who have the authority to not only prescribe the activities of their Executive Director, which they do retain, but also to appoint the person (an authority that the State Legislature gave to the Mayor back in 1988), that is the key to righting the ship regarding oversight of the MPD and MFD.

    The gushing praise of Executive Director Aldrete from CJI’s Christine Cole notwithstanding: “We are thrilled to have some sense of stability with the leadership in the FPC.” the Staff of the FPC has been in turmoil and anything but stable since Aldrete took over. Almost every person at the FPC with any experience has either been terminated or resigned since Aldrete arriived.

    Aldrete has left key positions vacant since last November including 2 Investigator/AUDITOR positions and a Staffing Services Manager. And now she has the additional challenge of hiring a new Policy & Research Analyst and Risk Auditor. According to her testimony at the meeting there are currently 13 vacancies in the department (the 2020 Budget allocates 30 positions in the FPC including 9 Commissioners).

    Alderman Bauman and Zielinski both questioned why these positions have not been filled and Aldrete’s pathetic blame shifting is not worth repeating. She has operated in complete disregard of the normal Common Council procedures for reclassifying positions as necessary. If you look at her FPC Organization Chart, you will see numerous unclassified positions that she created:

    The Org Chart lists: a Legal Compliance Coordinator, a Community Engagement Collaborative Coordinator, a Human Resources Analyst-Senior, a Testing Coordinator, and a Community Education Assistant — and none of these are “classified positions” per the FPC’s 2020 Budget allocation.

    In regards to complying with the Court Orders of the ACLU Settlement Agreement, the biggest challenge the FPC faces is establishing a capacity to audit the MPD, especially dash-cam and body-cam video. Aldrete repeatedly suggests that there are no auditor positions classified despite that the fact that the 2020 budget allocates 3 Investigator/AUDITOR positions and only one is currently filled. The other two have been vacant since Cheryl Patane resigned in disgust last November. And if you look at the Department of Employee Relations Job Announcements at https://city.milwaukee.gov/DER/jobs#.Xn4iQy2ZNR4 you will not see any postings for Investigator/AUDITOR. Alderman Zielinski rightly pointed out that if there was any issue with the classification of any FPC position, including presumably the existing Investigator/AUDITOR position, that Aldrete had plenty of opportunity to address it in the 7 months she has been on the job.

    If you check the agendas of the Finance and Personnel Committee since Aldrete took over as Executive Director, you will NOT FIND ONE case where she has submitted a request to reclassify an FPC Job Position. Alderman Bauman rightly pointed out that this it is a simply process, usually rubber-stamped in Finance, to get a reclassification approved and that it can be done in 3 weeks.

    Alderwoman Dodd, who participated in selecting Aldrete over former FPC Operations Manager, Clifton Crump, to be the Mayor’s appointee to the Executive Director position — like the CJI’s Christine Cole — values stability over competence. Apparently, they think that leaving an incompetent person in place is better than the instability that would accompany finding a competent person. They simply do not want to acknowledge the plain facts that Griselda Aldrete has not cleaned house at the FPC, she has burned the house down; she has not righted the ship, she has sunk it. She is incompetent and needs to be removed after the Spring elections.

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