MILWAUKEE — In a surprising twist in Milwaukee’s search for a permanent police chief, the citizen body responsible for making the decision came back with a tie vote Thursday night on whom to appoint.
Three Fire and Police Commission board members voted for Malik Aziz, a Dallas police major. The other three commissioners pledged their support for Hoyt Mahaley, an FBI supervisory special agent and former Milwaukee police officer.
FPC Chairman Nelson Soler told his fellow commissioners to spend the next week reevaluating their choices in the hopes that they can break their gridlock next Thursday.
“I’ll defer for next week and you’re welcome to talk to the candidates, clarify any additional information you might want to get from them,” Soler said.
The three commissioners who voted for Aziz said his progressive approach to community-oriented policing is needed in Milwaukee. Some also commended his response to a major crisis in 2016 when a gunman killed five Dallas police officers on his department.
"Mr. Aziz’s resume popped in my eyes, he literally was building his career for this point to be a chief,” said FPC Vice-Chairwoman Angela McKenzie.
Three other commissioners backed Milwaukee native Mahaley, citing his track record of building bonds with churches, business leaders and youth to address civil unrest issues.
“I believe that Mr. Mahaley would be a chief to take us to the next level and the next chapter of this city and to repair the community police trust,” said FPC commissioner Steven DeVougas.
But even before the commissioners voted Thursday night, one community member shared frustrations with how the FPC has been operating over the past year.
“I have been let down by this commission, the city has been let down,” said Greg St. Arnold of Milwaukee.
Arnold said he didn’t like how the commission neglected to give former Chief Alfonso Morales due process before he was demoted back in August. Since then, the FPC has lost its executive director and a commissioner to resignations. That former commissioner, Raymond Robakowski, could have broken Thursday night’s gridlock.
Mayor Tom Barrett issued a statement after the vote ended in a tie. It reads in part, “I would have preferred that the Commission made a decision tonight. I think what we’re seeing is the messiness of democracy in action. I remain optimistic that we will have a chief in place in line with Chief Brunson’s timetable.”
Chief Brunson’s last day before retiring is set for Dec. 23.
Both Aziz and Mahaley also sent TMJ4 News statements after the FPC meeting.
“I’m grateful to the FPC and all others who were involved in this process,” Aziz said. “I look forward to the next step in this process.”
“I’m grateful that I’ve made it this far, and still excited about the possibility of serving as Chief of Police,” Mahaley said. “I believe the commissioners are doing what they feel is best for the citizens of Milwaukee. I trust the process and welcome the opportunity to address any questions that the commissioners may have.”
If the FPC can’t break their tie next week, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said alders could confirm a new commissioner who’s been nominated by the mayor as soon as December 15. Johnson said that person could potentially hold the tie-breaking vote.