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Chief Morales Drops Internal Investigation

He promised internal probe of who leaked video to media that embarrassed FPC leader.

By - Jun 18th, 2020 09:54 am
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Alfonso Morales. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Alfonso Morales. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

It was back in late January that Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales promised citizens attending a public listening session on the South Side that he intended to investigate who had leaked an explosive video to the media that embarrassed Steven M. DeVougas, chairman of the Fire & Police Commission (FPC), which oversees both the chief and his department. 

“I didn’t leak any video, and I’m looking into it,” Morales said several times. as Neighborhood News Service reported. “We’re looking into it, and we’re looking into ways to prevent leaks from happening,” he added later.

Not long after this, on January 30, the Police Department released a statement saying it would be conducting an internal investigation of the leaked video. 

The video showed police investigating Kalan Haywood for a crime he has yet to be charged for and showed DeVougas, an attorney, attending the interview on Haywood’s behalf, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest for DeVougas. This placed pressure on the FPC chairman, who had told the media there was “no rush to hand out a four year term” for Morales, then an interim police chief filling out the term of former Police Chief Ed Flynn, who had resigned mid-contract. 

The video was leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which did a story in which Morales chastised DeVougas and and Police Union President Shawn Lauda called for DeVougas to resign from the FPC.

In short, this was a video that did damage to the reputation of both Haywood and DeVougas, while helping pressure the FPC to give Morales the four year term of office he wanted. So a cynic might say, why would the chief want to do a probe of who leaked it? 

The answer, as one well-placed source told Urban Milwaukee in January, is that this video is part of a pending criminal investigation of a prominent person in the community and involves a sensitive crime and an alleged sexual assault victim. In short, this is something the police department should have been carefully guarding, to protect the identity of both the accused and accuser. Yet it was leaked, exposing not just Haywood, but providing enough information from the case that the victim effectively lost her anonymity.

“There were enough details in the story to identify her,” said the inside source. “That has never happened before on a sexual assault investigation.” 

In short, this was hugely embarrassing to the department. “Almost everything that was done violates how you do an investigation like this,” the source said. “There has to be an audit trail of the leaked video.”

in short, someone from within the department had to be involved. And if nothing is done to root out the leaker, the source added, “you get a reputation as a department no one can trust.”

The January 30 statement by the Police Department suggested this was being taken very seriously: “Once we became aware of a news story involving the release of a video of an out-of-custody interview, the Department immediately began to investigate whether the release came from within MPD. That investigation is ongoing.” 

That would mean the investigation had begun by at least December 17, when the story with the video ran. As to when the investigation was expected to be completed, the department declined to answer these questions from Urban Milwaukee. 

It’s now been more than four months since the department announced that probe. What is the status of the investigation, I asked the department’s spokesperson, Sheronda Grant. “I believe that is being handled by the Fire and Police Commission,” she answered via email. 

“The FPC is definitely conducting an investigation,”  I replied, “but the Chief said he would be doing an internal investigation to find out who leaked the video. Is that no longer happening?”

I was then passed up the ladder to Administrative Lieutenant Erik Gulbrandson, who wrote me that “The investigation regarding the leaked video about the Kalan Haywood sexual assault investigation is being handled by the Fire and Police Commission. Please reach out to them.” 

So no, that promised internal investigation won’t be happening. Six months after someone grossly violated department protocols to leak that video, the mystery of who did this is still unsolved.   

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