Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Alders Want Police Chief Search Paused Following FPC Resignations

City struggles to find stability in police oversight body.

By - Nov 5th, 2020 12:08 pm
Griselda Aldrete and Raymond Robakowski. Images from the City of Milwaukee.

Griselda Aldrete and Raymond Robakowski. Images from the City of Milwaukee.

Seven of 15 council members issued a letter Thursday to the Fire & Police Commission and City Attorney Tearman Spencer calling for a “temporary halt” to the selection of a new police chief.

The letter comes after three high-profile resignations were submitted in the past week.

Outgoing Executive Director Griselda Aldrete left before a permanent replacement was found, reversing her May announcement. Her chief of staff Tammy Majewski is resigning November 10th and blames the “current climate at City Hall.” Commissioner Raymond Robakowski announced his resignation after less than a year on the board.

The commission, which now has six members, is in charge of hiring, firing, discipline and policies for the police and fire departments. Supported by a non-voting staff, including the executive director, the commission is in the process of hiring a new police chief after demoting Chief Alfonso Morales in August. Morales is now suing the city.

“For months we have heard public and private reports of dysfunction within the Commission from the level of senior staff on down. Many Common Council members have asked publicly whether there are enough staff members still on duty to perform even the most basic tasks of the Commission, much less to undertake the structural changes in both its own operation and those of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Departments that are so desperately needed,” wrote the council members. “We wonder who is preparing promotional lists? Who is monitoring the ACLU settlement? Who is ensuring that our hiring and promotional processes are as inclusive as this community needs and demands? And who is monitoring the complaints of citizens at a time where police-community relations appear to be at low ebb?”

The letter was signed by Chantia Lewis, Ashanti Hamilton, Robert Bauman, Nikiya Dodd, Milele A. Coggs, Mark Borkowski and Russell W. Stamper, II.

“The current disorder in the operations of the Fire and Police Commission has become a public spectacle that needs to end as soon as is possible. Please know that we stand ready to help to bring it to an end in any way that we can. No chief, however, should be hired under these circumstances; to do so threatens to make a difficult situation worse,” wrote the members.

The letter says a new chief should not be selected under a “deep cloud of uncertainty” and enough senior leaders of the police department are on hand to lead the department for the time being.

It also calls on the independently-elected City Attorney to provide an update on litigation in which the city is involved, including Morales’ legal claim.

The commission’s board is led by Nelson Soler, who has sparred with other members, including Robakowski, on the police chief selection process. Soler and Angela McKenzie did not participate in closed session interviews of six finalists after voting against a change to the process.

Two public listening sessions are now planned for a field of three finalists, the first one is this Saturday.

Mayor Tom Barrett said last Friday that the commission’s full-time staff would be “managed internally” for the time being, but didn’t identify a specific leader.

Council President Cavalier Johnson, who did not sign the council letter, placed a communication file on Monday’s Steering and Rules Committee agenda to receive information from the Barrett administration on who is running the commission, the status of hiring a new executive director, when an appointment for a new executive director will be made and when appointments will be made to completely fill the board with nine members.

Barrett said on Friday that he anticipated making an appointment for the executive director, who serves as the board’s non-voting secretary, “probably around Thanksgiving.”

Alderete was the third FPC executive director in three years, but had multiple confrontational meetings with the Common Council and faced a number of staffing issues. Facing an uncertain council re-appointment vote following Barrett’s re-election, she pulled out of the process after a committee hearing.

Robakowski was confirmed for a seat on the board in December and served as a pivotal swing vote to grant Morales a full four-year term. But the retired police officer became Morales’ most vocal critic when the board voted unanimously to demote the chief in August.

Another high-profile vacancy looms. Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Mark Rohlfing announced his retirement in September.

A copy of the letter can be found on Urban Milwaukee.

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Categories: City Hall, Politics

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