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'Homegrown talent': MPD’s only internal candidate for chief pleads case for top position

Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 10:19:18-04

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission announced its six finalists for the position of Milwaukee Police Chief. Over the next week, TMJ4 News will be interviewing each candidate to see why they believe they are the best fit for the position.

While each person will answer different questions, all six will answer three core questions facing the community of Milwaukee:

  • What examples are you proud of in your career as it relates to working with communities of color?
  • What have you done to promote racial and social justice issues within those communities?
  • Why do you want to be the Chief of Police in the City of Milwaukee?

It’s a highly scrutinized position in Milwaukee; former Chief Alfonso Morales was demoted to Captain from the Fire and Police Commission. Norman received a promotion to Assistant Chief after Morales was demoted.

There has been an outcry from the community, asking for changes; protesters have marched for 130 days (as of Monday) calling for social and racial justice change.

The candidates are from all over the country. Only one is a current Milwaukee Police Officer.

“I’m born and raised here in Milwaukee,” Assistant Chief Jeffrey Norman said. “Lived here my whole life. I’m not going anywhere. So, this is right up my alley.”

Norman first started with Milwaukee Police in 1996. He feels his background and experience in the city is what makes him an optimal fit.

“I focus on what’s going on in this city and how I can best serve it,” Norman said. “Having that homegrown background, I believe, gives me an understanding of what the needs are. Also, connections; community collaborations, the stakeholders, the government officials. I’m pretty much known for being out there.”

Norman spends plenty of time in the community. Whether it’s encouraging fellow officers to give back during the holidays or cracking down on problem drug houses across the street from an elementary school, Norman says his efforts with communities of color are evident.

“That’s what community engagement is brother,” Norman said. “It’s not just about ice cream cones and lollipops. It’s about being responsive to the community. Not because it’s the cool thing to do or a fad. It is who I am. It’s my core. The character I bring to the table there. When you’re in line with what your character speaks to, you’re actually doing your life’s work.”

Norman’s actions have shown what his character is. Just two weeks ago, Norman sat in on a community meeting between the League of Martin, the African American Police Officers Union, and local activists. Norman didn’t chime in during the meeting, which lasted over two hours. He took notes and did something he thinks needs to be done more often; he listened.

“If we refuse to listen, refuse to talk and figure out how can we do better, than we have failed as an organization,” Norman said. “I’m a lifelong learner. There is never an opportunity you look at that you can’t learn from or get some ideas or share some ideas. We need to be open to that.”

Norman shows tremendous respect for community activists. During that meeting with activists, he shook hands and hugged several of them. While he didn’t speak during the event, his actions spoke volumes to what he hopes to achieve, should he be selected as the next Police Chief.

“We need to communicate more,” Norman said. “I don’t believe we can communicate too much. Understand where the needs are, understand what expectations are and communication is a two-way street. We need to communicate more from the Police Department to the community and the community to us.”

For Norman, he is just a year away from being eligible for retirement, not that he’s leaning towards going that way.

“We want someone there who wants to be there,” Norman said. “I want to be there. I tell people all the time, this is not a job. It’s not a career. It’s a calling.” Understanding that, you step up to the plate when the need is there.”

But whether he gets this job or not, he plans on continuing his lifelong effort to serving his community.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Norman said. “Have I had other experiences in regards to accomplishments? Absolutely, but law enforcement has always been in my spirit, in my soul. It’s a lifelong calling brother.”

The Fire and Police Commission says it will likely make a selection on the next police chief by Dec. 3. If it’s Norman’s name they select, he’ll be ready.

“I won’t enjoy it,” Norman said with a grin. “I’ll love it.”

TMJ4 News will be interviewing the other five candidates over the next several days. We will update this and other stories about the chief candidates with links to the other profiles.

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