Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Is Chief Morales Doing a Good Job?

Council members ask for citizens' views in preparation for performance review of police chief.

By - Jun 6th, 2020 04:06 pm
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Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales addresses the media. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales addresses the media. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Six members of the Milwaukee Common Council have released a statement asking for citizen input regarding the performance of Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.

The statement, signed by alders Milele A. Coggs, Nikiya Dodd, Chantia Lewis, Russell W. Stamper, II, Ashanti Hamilton and Khalif Rainey, references the decision making by Morales in how the Milwaukee Police Department has handled the ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police:

“The Chief’s management style and decision-making have been apparent during the past week, which has seen protests and civil unrest erupt… Police have used tear gas, flash-bang devices and employed unique traffic and crowd control measures during these past several days. Police have also made numerous arrests for various offenses.”

Their tactics have drawn increasing criticism, most recently by Mayor Tom Barrett, who has called on police to make changes, asking them to stop using rubber bullets and reduce the use of tear gas.

This came after the ACLU of Wisconsin condemned the police for overreacting to the protests with tear gas and rubber bullets, and for “violent and militant tactics against demonstrators, most of whom were peacefully exercising their First Amendment right to protest.” Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy, who was himself arrested, blasted police for “brutal” and violent responses to protesters for breaking the city’s curfew.

Morales has defended his department’s tactics, saying police officers have been attacked. “It’s very, very easy to jump on the bandwagon and say Milwaukee can do better,” Morales said at a recent news conference. “Shame on them. That’s an easy narrative.” Assistant chief Michael Brunson also defended the department in a meeting with city officials on Friday.

But Alderwomen Lewis, who is the vice chair of the city’s Public Safety and Health Committee, chastised Morales, telling Wisconsin Public Radio that while police chiefs across the country have joined in on the protests, Morales has taken a more divisive tone. “When you have officers in riot gear that incites negative activity,” Lewis said. “How about protect other things instead of just protecting police stations?”

Common Council President Cavalier Johnson told Urban Milwaukee he’d like to see the police reach out more to the community, to be willing “to discuss their strategies and engage with community in times of unrest” and allow the community a chance “to interact with the police.”

The Public Safety and Health Committee will do a performance review of Morales later this month, and urged citizens to share their opinions on this.

“We strongly encourage residents to reach out to members of the Fire and Police Commission, who are the oversight body for Chief Morales and the MPD, to let them know about any issues, questions or concerns they have regarding Chief Morales,” the statement said. “Whether they are concerns about the conduct of MPD officers, the overall policing strategy of the department, or what needs to be improved or could be done better – the voice and input of citizens is critical and is needed now more than ever.”

The statement urged interested citizens to go to the FPC website “and reach out to the members of the Commission via email so that they can receive observations and information from the public that can help them in their review of Chief Morales.” The deadline for any opinions or statements to the FPC on this is June 12.

The community group Leaders Igniting Change has written a blistering letter to the FPC with a broad-ranging critique of Morales noting the department’s nearly $300 million budget and charging that “Black and Brown residents of Milwaukee are literally paying for Chief Morales’ officers to target people of color with racist practices and non-consequential behavior, thereby funding their oppression, with their own tax dollars and lives.”

And political consultant and former radio personality Sherwin Hughes has started a petition calling for Morales’ removal from office.

Morales was served in his position since February 2018, when he was hired as interim chief to complete the contract of retiring chief Edward A. Flynn, In December 2019 the Fire and Police Commission approved a new four-term of office for Morales as permanent chief.

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6 thoughts on “Back in the News: Is Chief Morales Doing a Good Job?”

  1. jayoak says:

    Don’t judge until you walked 100 miles in his shoes.

  2. frank a schneiger says:

    Is the Police Chief doing a good job?That may not be the right question. It assumes that the police chief exercises the authority needed to control police behavior. In many, if not most cities, that isn’t the case. The most powerful person – or persons – in public safety are not the police chief, the mayor, or in the unusual case of Milwaukee, the Fire and Police Commission.

    Typically, the most powerful persons are the police union leaders.They are men – almost always men – who have three qualities: first, they defend the indefensible and insist that their members, the cops, do the same, the so-called “blue wall”; second, their politics are usually far right, and, third, they always use the threat that they will have the cops stop doing their jobs if they don’t get their way. The result, coupled with the increasing militarization of policing as the 6th and McKinley episode indicates, is what we have today.

    If there are solutions to the deep-seated problems of urban policing, they will require taking on the unions and forcing cops to choose between doing what is right and their colleagues who are doing wrong. It is hard to find someone who has been around who is optimistic about such an effort. This is especially true in a city like Milwaukee with a police culture that was shaped by an out-and-out racist Harold Breier decades ago and the city’s intense segregation, which has produced deep mistrust and pessimism in all quarters.

    But, if someone can come up with an alternative to trying, especially the alternative of holding on to the status-quo, it would be interesting to have them try to defend it.

  3. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Rubber bullets No mention of them in the story but both the Mayor and the ACLU mention them. If the Chief approved there use and the police themselves used them I see this as a very significant step in the direction that the RIGHT is wanting to go. Shooting at people is the first step in shooting at people with deadly force.

    Where and when did rubber bullets come into play in general and when and who approved there use in Milwaukee.

    The mayhem caused by the broken windows and then intentional allowing of the looting to go on. Never really thought of it before but that mayhem is truly very disturbing and upsetting. The trick is to break the windows and as some protesters noted they were a different group and not part of the protesters. The looters are just opportunist and for what reason have the police NOT stopped the looting? The looters are clearly no threat to the life of a police officer and yet the looting has been allowed to go on. Hummmm as I say.

  4. GBJames says:

    Replacing Morales will not solve the problem because until the police unions are reformed or disbanded the culture of the department will not change. Still, I think Morales should go. He clearly doesn’t understand the situation we’re facing. His religious comments the other day, comparing the treatment of police across the country to that of the crucifixion of Jesus two thousand years ago were not only inappropriate but dumb. If you want to use that particular analogy, then police are in the role of the Roman army. He’s apparently not able to objectively look at why protests are happening here and around the world. We need a better chief.

  5. cckingsley@gmail.com says:

    I think Morales should go. There is much to be done in addition to getting rid of the chief, i.e. diversity training for the department, better working with union and more, but getting rid of Morales is a good first step.

    Chris Christie

  6. Mingus says:

    The State of Wisconsin should include police unions in all of the provisions of Act 10 that has impacted public employees. There would be very few matters left for mandatory negotiation. The State’s Attorney General could develop policies on how to handle police misconduct in a transparent way that protects the rights of the officers and the safety of citizens. Any remaining police union members should just be patrol officers and not any administrative personnel. It is pretty absurd that the deplorable head of the Minneapolis Police Union is a Lieutenant.

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