Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Police Chief Search Has One Candidate

Acting Chief Jeffrey Norman asked to apply for permanent post by FPC. Mayor, many alders back him.

By - Sep 6th, 2021 12:02 pm
MPD Assistant Chief Jeffrey Norman. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Then-assistant chief Chief Jeffrey Norman in 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Fire & Police Commission is clearing a pathway for Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman to become the permanent head of the Milwaukee Police Department.

In August it terminated the botched search process that followed the August 2020 demotion of former chief Alfonso Morales. On Thursday it launched a new search process and invited a single candidate: Norman.

But it doesn’t mean he automatically gets the job, says the commission.

“We can still have a vetting process that allows the public to get to know the beliefs and philosophies of the acting chief. He has been in that position for eight months,” said commission chair Edward Fallone. “Having him as the sole finalist does not preclude the public from participating in the process.”

“He is still an applicant for this position,” said Commissioner Joan Kessler.

Norman was the last remaining local finalist in the prior search, but was eliminated when the field was narrowed from six to three. He became acting chief in December after Morales’ replacement, Michael Brunson, retired. Brunson did not pursue the permanent post.

The majority of the commission had no role in the prior search, nor the Morales demotion that resulted in a $627,000 settlement to the former chief. Four of the seven members are new, as is the executive director who serves as the board’s non-voting secretary.

The board will interview Norman and hold at least two public listening sessions. A formal vote is expected in November.

The commission opted to skip a national search, which executive director Leon W. Todd, III said would take at least four months. On a 6-0 vote, it decided to invite Norman to be the only applicant. Commissioner Fred Crouther was absent.

Beyond the decision of whether or not to hire Norman, the commission also needs to decide for how long. It could hire him for the remainder of Morales’ term, through January 8, 2024, or it could grant him a full four-year term.

“I think that’s something we should wait for the interview process to show us,” said Fallone. Kessler and Commissioner Everett Cocroft advocated for a four-year term to provide more stability and recognize the work Norman has put in.

Norman must also decide to accept the terms for the job, should he be offered it. Earlier this year, before the Morales’ matter was settled, he was one of three finalists for the role of Wauwatosa Police Chief.

While the Morales lawsuit was pending, the commission publicly fought over the process, one member called another a dictator before resigning, the chair and vice chair sat out private interviews and ultimately the board, then composed of six members, deadlocked four times on picking a new chief from the three finalists. The chair and vice chair have since been replaced.

Norman meanwhile has gained support within City Hall. A 25-year MPD veteran, he has received repeated public endorsements from Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson as well as other council members.

The acting chief was appointed assistant chief by Brunson in 2020 and prior to that served as captain of District 3. which includes the city’s West Side.

Norman holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from the UW-Milwaukee, a master of public administration degree from Kaplan University, and a juris doctor degree from Marquette University. He ran unsuccessfully for an open Milwaukee County Circuit Court judgeship in 2008, losing to now-Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Rebecca F. Dallet.

What happened to the three finalists from the last search? Dallas Police Department major Malik Aziz was appointed chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department in March. Portland Police Bureau Deputy Chief Chris Davis became chief of the Green Bay Police Department in July. FBI Special Agent in Charge Hoyt Mahaley, who tied repeatedly with Aziz in Milwaukee, has not received a chief position. In an August letter, Mahaley called the new search process “unnecessary” and “unfair.”

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