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Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales Reappointed

Commission Renewed Contract With 4-2 Vote

Milwaukee Chief of Police Alfonso Morales
Milwaukee Chief of Police Alfonso Morales at a Milwaukee Rotary Club meeting Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Ximena Conde/WPR

Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission reappointed Police Chief Alfonso Morales on Wednesday night after months of deliberation and speculation.

The special session that Commissioner Nelson Soler called on Tuesday lasted more than two hours. During another meeting late Wednesday night, the commission voted 4-2, with one abstaining, to renew Morales’ contract despite pushback from Common Council members about the abrupt notice.

Nine of the 15 Common Council members issued a letter to commissioners asking the body to reconsider and postpone Morales’ reappointment, saying the rushed decision “calls into question the thoroughness of the review.” The nine council members suggested pushing decision back another month.

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The meeting also comes after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued a statement saying, “As a city, we need clarity on law enforcement’s relationship with the residents it protects, and this accomplishes that. I am hopeful and confident that the full Fire & Police Commission will pass the Committee’s recommendation regarding SOP 130.”

Morales has held the position for the last two years. He was fulfilling the term of former Chief Edward Flynn through Jan. 7. Flynn retired in the middle of his four-year term in February 2018.

Multiple community activists, business owners and friends of the Morales expressed their support during the special session, like Journey House CEO Dr. Michele Bria.

“I want to say throughout the decade that I’ve been serving Milwaukee’s south side, we’ve had good police chiefs but under Chief Morales, he has taken good to great to extraordinary,” Brea said.

Public comments during the meeting lasted for an hour. Milwaukee resident Mary Watkins said that she was the fly in the ointment at the meeting.

“I personally believe that a last minute meeting at 8:30 on a Wednesday night was not the proper time to address this issue,” she said.

Morales said after the meeting that he was relieved he got the opportunity to work with the community.

“You’re not going to make everyone happy and that’s just a part of the job, not everyone is happy,” Morales said. “But I’m putting every bit of effort that I can to really rebuild the relationships in this community and I’m going to continue to keep doing that.”

Some citizens used public comment to criticize the Fire and Police Commission. Nathaniel Hamilton said that the commission shouldn’t have had a special session because they didn’t give underrepresented groups a chance to voice their opinions.

“If changes aren’t made, actions will be enforced,” Hamilton said.

Commission Chair Steven DeVougas said on Monday that there would be no vote this week on Morales’ appointment because the commission was still waiting on the Milwaukee Police Department to answer its questions. The commission had no meetings scheduled until next year.

DeVougas requested information about demographic data for sworn staff that Morales fired during his tenure, updates on a compliance with the settlement agreement in an American Civil Liberties Union stop-and-frisk lawsuit and an update of the department’s internal investigation into the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown.

DeVougas, who voted against appointing Morales during the special session, said he wanted to postpone for more community engagement and for the commission to have time to process the answers to their questions.

“I think there were answers that the community demanded,” DeVougas explained. “We are trying to move the department forward into the new decade.”

Morales will be sworn in on Thursday at City Hall. His appointment will last four years.

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