Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

FPC Changes Process for Hiring Police Chief

Six finalists to be interviewed in private and public will be able to question three finalists.

By - Oct 14th, 2020 04:38 pm
Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Police Administration Building, 951 N. James Lovell St. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

The Fire & Police Commission rebounded from self-described “chaos” on Friday night to amend its process for hiring a new Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department.

The commission, led by Chair Nelson Soler, had originally intended to narrow the candidates for chief to six and then interview them publicly. It was to make a final decision on the next chief by December 3rd, according to Soler.

Now that’s changed.

The commission voted 4-3 on Tuesday to change the process to six private interviews and then a public forum for a narrowed field of three finalists. But what form the public review takes still remains to be worked out. At least two public meetings are expected.

“I am not in favor of interviewing six people at the same time publicly,” said Commissioner Fred Crouther. He said he would skip that process if it happened. He found support for changing the process from commissioners Steven M. DeVougas, Raymond Robakowski and Ann Wilson.

“I think it would be more effective for us to interview the candidates in private,” said DeVougas.

“I have a hard line question, and I want to make sure I get a hard line answer,” said Robakowski, a former police officer.

Commissioner Angela McKenzie backed the original process, as did Everett Cocroft and Soler.

Cocroft had earlier said he was willing to compromise after calling Friday’s special meeting “chaos.” That meeting, called with less than 24 hours notice, featured Robakowski calling Soler a “dictator” when Soler moved to shut down the meeting.

“I’m trying to be the glue,” said the retired firefighter. “I’m trying to mend some fences here.”

The Common Council weighed in on the matter via a letter. “We know we cannot direct you with whom to select as the next chief of police. We are not recommending a list of candidates,” wrote the entire council. “We must insist, however, that whatever process you choose be made public and, once made public, adhered to.”

“A lack of transparency and evenhandedness risks tainting the process for selecting a chief who will have the already daunting task of uniting the community deeply divided over the proper role of the Milwaukee Police Department,” wrote the council.

Robakowski said the public portion of the process was the most important and could take the shape of more than two meetings due to COVID-19.

“I ask that the public bear with us, we are doing the best we can,” said DeVougas.

In the background of the discussion was an issue that won’t go away, the addition of retired assistant chief Ray Banks as a seventh finalist. Two members of the public that testified asked for Banks to be added to the list. The retired chief applied for the job but wasn’t selected as a finalist.

“We have a recommendation for a seventh candidate that I have never heard any of us talk about,” said Robakowski. “This came from outer space.” He said it didn’t come from the commission.

The approved finalists for the position are MPD assistant chief Jeffrey Norman and five candidates from outside the department and this state: FBI supervisory special agent Hoyt Mahaley, Pittsburgh Police Department commander Jason Lando, Dallas Police Department major Malik Aziz, Police Police Department deputy Chris Davis and John E. Pate, a former police chief for a Chicago suburb and now a city manager in the Miami area.

One thought on “City Hall: FPC Changes Process for Hiring Police Chief”

  1. Paul Mozina says:

    At the beginning of the October 8th meeting of the Fire and Police Commission ( Commissioner Wilson explained her understanding of the process for selecting a new chief that was communicated by Board Chair Nelson Soler at their September 3rd FPC Meeting: The 6 candidates/finalists would be interviewed in a public setting.

    At the 1:45 mark in the meeting Executive Director Aldrete responded: “I think the process as you outlined seems to be correct. Last week after the meeting, I was asked by the Chair to notify the 6 finalists that they were now moving onto the second round of the process, which would include interviews in front of you. I was asked by the Chair, I was told by the Chair at that point, to schedule the interviews in closed session individually for each candidate, but I think now there seems to be a desire to have these interviews in public. And I think that’s what’s caused a little bit of the confusion.”

    The meeting Ms. Aldrete is referring to is either the Executive or Regular Session on October 1.

    Ms. Aldrete began her comments by saying the process outlined by Commissioner Wilson was correct, but then went on to explain the instructions she received from the Board Chair that absolutely contradicted the process as originally outlined and she summarized by saying: “now there seems to be a desire to have these interviews in public.” Public interviews of the 5-6 finalist was a part of the original process that was correctly outlined by Commissioner Wilson. The “little bit of confusion” was on the part of the Executive Director.

    FPC Board Chair Soler has not confirmed or denied giving the Executive Director instructions to hold the interviews with the 6 finalists in closed session. Commissioner Soler voted on October 13 to stick with the process as originally defined — which included public interviews — yet on October 1 according to Ms. Aldrete, he had given her specific instructions to hold the interviews in closed session in direct contradiction to that process?

    I don’t know if it is worth reconciling this, but it is characteristic of the dysfunctional relationship that currently exists between the Board and its Executive Director. To this day, the FPC has yet to attach a document explaining the selection process for the new chief on Legistar. Is that too much to ask?

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