Embattled Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales talked about his future at a panel discussion on Tuesday before the Milwaukee Press Club. The Fire and Police Commission has issued a number of directives to the chief, with a caveat that he could be fired if he doesn’t meet them.
The Fire and Police Commission issued nearly a dozen edicts last month regarding Milwaukee Police Department operations. They include a demand for more information on the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks Guard Sterling Brown in 2018, as well as an explanation of why tear gas and pepper spray were used during recent Black Lives Matter protests. Morales says he intends to comply with all of the orders, but he says it’s been time consuming.
“In the first 13 days after I received these directives, we’ve had 10 homicides and 64 non-fatal shootings. For me as the chief of police, the crime is one of the most important pieces to have a grasp and a handle of. But what I’m doing in working on these directives, it’s taking not only myself but my executive staff offline to do that, so it’s of concern,” Morales says.
One of the Fire and Police Commission directives orders Morales to institute a department-wide mask requirement because of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Morales attended a fundraiser in West Allis for families of fallen police officers — and photos show a room full of people not wearing masks and standing close together. It appears Morales wore his mask on his chin and the chief was blasted for it on social media. Morales responded to the criticism at Tuesday’s forum.
“I can’t answer for the others. I took my mask off to take some pictures, knowing that was going to hit the media,” he says.
The Fire and Police Commission is expected to get a report on Morales’ progress in meeting the directives on Thursday night. At Tuesday’s panel, Morales also talked about recent remarks made by his attorney, Franklyn Gimbel. Gimbel predicted that the Fire and Police Commission will terminate Morales, regardless of whether he meets the directives. Morales says he wants to stay on as chief.
“I’m going to continue. My energy comes from the people in the city of Milwaukee. I’ve received an outpouring of support the last couple of weeks from the community. Being born and raised here and knowing a lot of the community, knowing these neighborhoods, these 190 neighborhoods, that gives me the energy to be here and continue to serve and I will serve until told otherwise,” Morales says.
He says there’s plenty of work to do in the meantime, and he’s focusing most of his energy on the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. The four-day event starts in less than two weeks. It will be a scaled-back, mostly virtual affair because of the coronavirus, and dozens of local police departments have pulled out of agreements to help staff it. Morales says, even so, he is working on a security plan.
“We still have an area that has to be protected and we’re still going to have potential protests that come from it that need to be monitored. My prayer is that it’s all done peacefully and that we are able to manage a peaceful, productive event,” Morales says.
He says the security plan continues to be fluid, and it changes “on a regular basis” depending on which departments say they’re coming and which ones aren’t. He's indicated that he may seek help from the Wisconsin National Guard or federal resources to help staff the event.
Editor's note: A portion of this audio is from WisconsinEye.