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Milwaukee's Fire And Police Commission Head Responds To Questions About Personnel, Policy Issues

aldrete.jpg
Maayan Silver
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Griselda Aldrete (left, front) responds to concerns of the Common Council's Steering & Rules Committee on Thursday.

The executive director of Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission has come under fire in recent weeks for personnel and policy decisions. So, a Common Council committee hastily took up the issue on Thursday.

Griselda Aldrete became head of the Fire and Police Commission just three months ago after being appointed in July. The agency is responsible for oversight of the Milwaukee Police and Fire departments.

On Thursday, Aldrete faced a panel of eight members of the Common Council's Steering & Rules Committee. They grilled her on a range of issues, including a former employee whose access badge wasn't deactivated and changes made to public comment sessions at public hearings.

Alderman Robert Bauman had the most pointed inquiries, including about job vacancies.

Bauman: "Let's get some baseline facts established here. How many positions is your department, including yourself, currently authorized for?"
Aldrete: "Twenty-eight."
Bauman: "And today, how many of those positions are occupied, filled and have people working in them?
Aldrete: "Fourteen."
Bauman: "So, you have 14 vacancies — 50% of your authorized strength is vacant?"
Aldrete: "mhmmm"

Some aldermen say they've heard from community members who have concerns about the commission's openness and accessibility to the public.

Aldrete inherited a short-staffed department. She's filled four spots. But she has let go of three employees, and has had four resignations.

In recent days, a former investigator for the commission wrote a letter to aldermen, announcing she was resigning because of Aldrete's mismanagement. Another official resigned earlier saying he was being scapegoated for the commission's problems.

Aldrete responded to the concerns, telling the committee that she's doing the best she can with staffing and policymaking — and is prioritizing.

"We currently have a lot of disciplinary appeals in front of us," she said. "We also have 42 open records requests that have been submitted since I've been here. We are currently dealing with investigations — we have eight currently open. I also have to make sure we're managing the commission and the meetings. I've also been tasked to manage a police chief's re-appointment process."

READ: A Look At The Tenure Of Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales

Representatives of the police and fire departments vouched for Aldrete and said they've had good recruiting, testing and hiring under her lead.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton says the city's inspector general — a new post that investigates complaints against city employees — has opened an investigation into concerns raised about the Fire and Police Commission.

He says the inspector general will present findings to the Council, which may then launch a formal investigation.

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