Milwaukee Police Commission Demotes Police Chief Over Tear-Gas Use

Milwaukee Police Commission Demotes Police Chief Over Tear-Gas Use And Other Concerns

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales is no longer the chief.

An oversight board demoted Morales on Thursday after questioning how he handled multiple incidents, including his orders to use tear gas and pepper spray on protesters during a demonstration for George Floyd, NBC News reports.

It was a unanimous decision by the city’s Fire and Police Commission, a board of majority Black members Thursday evening to demote Morales, who is Latino, to captain after three-and-a-half years on the job.

According to the chief’s attorney Franklyn Gimbel, Morales’ relationship with the commission has been deteriorating since he refused the chairman’s request to fire an officer who arrested Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown in January 2018. The commission as of recently criticized Morales for authorizing the use of tear gas to disperse protesters and the board has questioned how Morales’ department policed Black communities.

Morales joined the force in 1993 and was appointed the Chief position in 2018. Assistant Police chief Michael J. Brunson Sr. will act as the new chief.

“His conduct is unbecoming, filled with ethical lapses and flawed decisions, making it inconsistent with someone who has the privilege of leading the Milwaukee Police Department,” Commissioner Raymond Robakowski said.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is unhappy with the commission’s decision and feels Morales should have been given a chance to respond to the panel.

“The discussion surrounding this decision tonight was completely lacking in transparency. The action taken by the commission tonight was not good government,” Barrett said.

The state is facing a surge in gun violence and is currently planning security for a scaled-down Democratic National Convention.

A number of police chiefs across the U.S. have resigned from their positions as pressure mounts to reform American policing after the death of George Floyd, including Atlanta Chief Ericka Shields, Jamie Resch in Portland, Oregon and William Smith in Richmond, Virginia.

The Mayor urged the commission to slow down, but Morales attorney, Gimbel said the odds were too far against him.

“I’m unaware of him having any supporters (on the commission),” Gimbel said. “There seems like a cumulative sense that they want to dump the guy.” Gimbel declined to comment to The Associated Press following the meeting.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

The former chief’s decision to use tear gas in May and June was also criticized by the Mayor. The commission banned its use by July, and as a result, a number of police departments across the state rescinded their offer to help with convention security.

On July 20, the commission ordered Morales to produce reams of records related to the numerous incidents, including the decision to tear gas and pepper spray protesters, Brown’s arrest, and the June arrest of a Black activist on suspicion of burglary. The panel also demanded Morales draft community policing standards, develop a discipline matrix to clarify how officers are disciplined, as well as a draft of a policy requiring officers to wear face masks during the pandemic.

“We are in the midst of an urgent overdue reckoning on race and policing in this country,” the commission said in a statement Monday. “Only with transparency, accountability, and truth will we move on as a society. This discussion may make some uncomfortable, and may bluntly scare others.”

Morales was given a week to respond to some of the requests. The board threatened to discipline or fire him if he did not comply. Gimbel said those expectations were ridiculous and cited the commission gave Morales’ predecessor, Ed Flynn, 50 days to respond to similar requests.

The department argues that the orders are vague, invalid, and possibly illegal. The orders could also violate a 2018 settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The (orders) attempt to paint a picture that MPD has been non-compliant or outright insubordinate with the FPC,” the department said in a statement. “The manner in which business is being conducted at the FPC causes alarm.”

Mayor Barrett sent a letter to the commission on Wednesday, calling for an “orderly review” of the orders.

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About Crystal Gross

Crystal joined BallerAlert in 2020 to renew her passion for writing. She is a Kentucky native who now lives in the heart of Atlanta. She enjoys reading, politics, traveling, and of course writing.

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