A Look At The Tenure Of Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales

Oct 3, 2019

Updated Friday at 12:50 p.m. CT

On Thursday night, the Fire and Police Commission took the first steps toward reappointing Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.

Morales has been in the post for about 1 1/2 years — and has said he wants to remain. He stepped in after the retirement of former Police Chief Ed Flynn. Morales' current contract is through the beginning of January 2020.

Milwaukee Police Department Police Chief Alfonso Morales.
Credit COURTESY OF THE MILWAUKEE POLICE DEPARTMENT

Alderman Bob Donovan, chair of the Council's public safety and health committee, says Morales has many supporters on the Common Council. 

Donovan says Morales has proven in the last two years a desire to get the job done, be transparent, and be open to members of the council and the community.

He says Morales faced real challenges when taking over for Chief Flynn, including a limited-pursuit policy that Donovan opposed, and fewer officers on the force than in previous years.

"Finally, it was really unprecedented, the number of officers sadly killed in the line of duty during his two years — the challenges in dealing with that and impact on the morale of our officers," says Donovan.

READ: Is Milwaukee's Shoot Review Model Reducing Gun Violence?

Donovan says Morales has enforced the law fairly and equally. He adds that Morales has sent a message to his officers that he'll back them up when they're right and take steps to discipline them when they're wrong.

Additionally, President of the Milwaukee Police Association Shawn Lauda says Morales' crime strategies have been working.

"I believe in 2018, homicides were down considerably, and through at least the beginning of summer here, the latest stats that I'm aware of, homicides are down another 32%. So, violent crime seems to be down, trending in the proper direction," Lauda explains.

"He seems to have reversed the terrible morale we had under my membership under Chief Flynn." - Shawn Lauda

Lauda says that Morales is a true leader. Not leading through intimidation, but leading by example.

"He seems to have reversed the terrible morale we had under my membership under Chief Flynn. We did a no confidence vote and I believe 99.3% of my members had no confidence in Chief Flynn. I think Chief Morales has really rejuvenated my members," Lauda says.

Morales' efforts are also focused on police-community relations, Lauda says. He says Morales' long-term goal is to support communities of color through community policing, including having squads be responsible for smaller areas of the community and sending officers door-to-door to talk to residents.

Chief Morales speaks during a Take it Ez press conference in July 2019. The pilot program is aimed at ending reckless driving in Milwaukee.
Credit City of Milwaukee / Flickr

But some people in communities of color say they don't really feel that support. Community activist Vaun Mayes says that's still an area the Milwaukee Police Department needs to improve. He says that all levels of the police department should be centered on community — not just the chief.

"Like in my capacity [as a community activist], if there's an issue in the community, I in some aspects are able to reach out to a captain and say, 'Well this is an issue, this is what's going on and how can we settle this?' " Mayes says. "And some captains are receptive to that, others are not — they are not community-minded, they are not community-orientated, the department is always right."

"You have the same officers repeating bad behavior without proper reprimand." - Vaun Mayes

Also, Mayes says Morales needs to get better at disciplining officers, citing the example of the officer who left a 4-year-old in car overnight in a tow lot. He notes that officer was also involved in the Sterling Brown incident — the Milwaukee Buck's player was tased and arrested by MPD officers over a parking violation. Brown is suing the city.

"You have the same officers repeating bad behavior without proper reprimand. So, different stuff like that. There's definitely room for improvement," says Mayes.

Mayes also takes issue with the pursuit policy. He would like to see MPD implement a no-pursuit policy to cut down on the risk of death for everyone involved, including innocent bystanders.

READ: High-Speed MPD Chases Continue To Trigger Concerns

Additionally, Mayes says police funding takes up too much of the city budget. He thinks more money should be devoted to community resources and prevention. Mayes says if Morales really wants to send a message, he could refuse some of the money.

We reached out to Chief Alfonso Morales, but he was not available for an interview within the deadline for this story.