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Politics & Government

Milwaukee Aldermen Confirm Former Officer To Fire And Police Commission Despite Community Concerns

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Screenshot / City of Milwaukee
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Former Milwaukee police officer Ray Robakowski testified before the Public Safety and Welfare committee earlier in December.

The Milwaukee Common Council Tuesday filled a spot on the city’s powerful Fire and Police Commission. Aldermen confirmed retired Milwaukee police officer Raymond Robakowski to serve on the city’s public safety oversight board. The council gave approval to Mayor Tom Barrett’s nominee despite objections from community groups.

Robakowski served as a Milwaukee police officer for two decades, starting in 1995. He was nominated by Barrett and approved by the council on Tuesday with a 13-2 vote. There was no discussion. One alderman who voted in favor of the appointment was Mark Borkowski. His district covers part of Milwaukee’s south side. Borkowski says Robakowski is a constituent and believes he’ll be a “good fit” on the commission.

“This is very important work. I look forward to his experience as a Milwaukee police officer. He’s been there. He’s been through trials and tribulations. He’s just a decent human being,” Borkowski says.

Borkowski notes that the council rejected the mayor’s last two nominees to the commission earlier this year – Denise Bartlett and William Gielow. He says he’s happy that the council moved forward on this nominee.

“I recognize that not all of us are going to say, 'Oh, this candidate is perfect and checks all the boxes' and that kind of stuff. Let’s face it, we all have warts, we all have shortcomings,” Borkowski says.

The council voted to seat Robakowski over the objections of several people in the audience, including Markasa Tucker. She’s director of the African American Roundtable. Tucker fears that being from law enforcement, Robakowski won’t be able to be objective on decisions involving officer discipline and promotions. Plus, she says she’s upset that Robakowski has a son who’s currently on the force.

“It really is a sad day when the oversight board has individuals on it who are definitely going to be siding. Whether he can recuse himself or he can be unbiased, once you are a law enforcement officer, that title, whether you are retired or not, is something that’s pretty ingrained with you after awhile,” Tucker says. 

Tucker says she disagrees with Robakowski’s supporters who say as a former officer, he brings an important perspective to the commission. She says Milwaukee’s African American community has long standing issues with law enforcement.

“It’s hard for people of color, black and brown folks, to trust law enforcement that has continuously treated us inappropriately, continuously oppressed us,” Tucker says.

In addition to Robakowski now being on the commission, the panel also has a retired firefighter – Everett Cocroft.

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