MILWAUKEE — About two dozen members of the public gathered on the north side of Milwaukee Saturday to question Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman as he's considered for a permanent job to lead Milwaukee Police.
The meeting, at Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, was the first of three the Fire and Police Commission is holding in consideration of the chief of police candidate.
"As chief, they always ask: 'what is your crime strategy?' My strategy is community engagement," said Norman in opening remarks at the event, which was moderated by Dr. Jacqueline Mann.
He had strong support at the gathering, with people attesting to his devotion to the city and the job, his decades on the force, and a law degree (from Marquette, nonetheless, another tie to the city).
"You're not only getting an experienced law enforcement officer, you're getting a legal mind," said retired Milwaukee Police Sgt. Kerry Flowers.
An educator in Milwaukee for nearly 40 years, Janette Herrera, said it will take the community to rally around Norman to get the job done.
"He's a good friend of mine. I know his track record. I know his sincerity. I know he's concerned about what happens to our community," said Herrera.
Among the many questions asked of Norman — how will he curb human trafficking, reckless driving and violent crime? Again, he said, greater community engagement. As far as the driving problem, Norman said he supports the use of red light cameras.
One question came up several times: why does Milwaukee PD, according to independent reports, still fail to comply with stop and frisk practices that largely target black and Latinx people?
Norman said "accountability" for that problem has already begun.
"We've already have brought in individuals who are violating at a higher rate than others," he said.
Another citizen said he was disappointed that the Fire and Police Commission is now holding community meetings only after it already selected Norman.
After two more meetings — on the 28th (virtual) and 30th — the commission will vote on Nov. 4 whether or not to elect Norman as the next chief.
Ed Fallone, commission chair, maintains the commission has not yet decided on Norman, although he is the only candidate at this time.
"He is being interviewed. He is being considered, and if we are not satisfied he is the right person for the job, then we will open the search," said Fallone.
Last year, during a previous search, Norman failed to make a shortlist of candidates to replace former Police Chief Alfonso Morales. But Norman was eventually named acting chief while the search for a permanent leader continued.
The search later came to a half amid the pandemic and only restarted this September, with Norman — nine months into the job — the consensus candidate of the commission.
When asked about the possible opening of another search, Norman had this to say:
"I stand before you as a qualified candidate who has always been, and will always remain in our city."