Report: Former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales Denied Due Process With Demotion

Morales Attorney Says Lawsuit 'Around The Corner' If Meaningful Settlement Negotiations Don't Happen

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Ximena Conde/WPR

Former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales did not receive due process when he was ousted from his position, according to a report by the city’s inspector general.

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission did not follow state law or the city attorney’s opinions when they unanimously demoted Morales on Aug. 6, according to the report.

Milwaukee Inspector General Ronda Kohlheim’s report found the commission received opinions from the City Attorney’s Office that said the existing citizen complaint procedure, where they investigate citizen complaints, was a method by which a chief can be disciplined.

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Kohlheim wrote all complaints made about Morales should have been investigated by the commission’s former executive director, Griselda Aldrete. But on at least two occasions, the Commission’s decision to demote Morales was based solely on citizen complaints and not investigations.

“Testimonial evidence suggests that on at least two occasions the board’s decision to demote the chief was exclusively based on an apparent assertion by the City Attorney ‘to do what needs to be done’ with assurance that the board’s decision would be supported and defended by the City Attorney’s Office,” the report states.

However, City Attorney Tearman Spencer contends the office never explicitly directed the commission to demote Morales. Spencer and the commission have been at odds over who is at fault over Morales’ demotion.

The report was commissioned by the Common Council in an attempt to find out whether the City Attorney’s Office or the Fire and Police Commission made the decision to move forward on the demotion.

The Milwaukee Common Council Steering and Rules Committee met Monday to discuss the inspector general’s report. The committee includes the council president and council members who chair all the other committees.

Kohlheim was asked to elaborate on her findings, but said she would not do so in open session. After she read her report, the committee moved the meeting into closed session.

Before doing so, Kohlheim told council members her report was done without cooperation from any of the Fire and Police Commissioners, Aldrete or Spencer, whom she reached out to several times. Kohlheim has the authority to subpoena people, but said she didn’t think it was necessary.

She said she “had all the documentation she needed.” to complete her report. Those documents were provided to her by an unnamed city employee.

Morales was removed from his post in August and demoted to the rank of captain following months of turmoil amid Black Lives Matter protests and years of community distrust of officers. He later resigned.

In December, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Foley reversed the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission’s decision to demote Morales. But the judge did not give further instructions, and it remains unclear if or how Morales could actually retake leadership of the Police Department.

The city’s interim police chief is Jeffrey Norman.

Morales’ attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, met with Assistant City Attorney William Davidson in December to discuss next steps, but the talks have stalled.

Last week, the Milwaukee Common Council voted to hire an outside law firm to handle ongoing legal challenges because of the August decision.

On Monday, Gimbel said he’s waiting to hear from those attorneys.

“(A) lawsuit (is) around the corner if we cannot engage in meaningful settlement discussions,” Gimbel said.