CITY OF MILWAUKEE — Local activist groups are calling for Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission to increase the number of members on its board, in an effort to cool tensions between the FPC and the city's police department and help fix a number of issues plaguing the community.
The Commission's board currently consists of seven part-time commissioners, and is aided by an executive director and a full-time staff. The board's job is to oversee the city's fire and police departments and prescribe "general policies, standards, and rules," the civilian body's mission statement reads.
But the groups wrote in a letter to Mayor Tom Barrett Monday that adding two new commissioners to the board would "help remedy current problems" - problems described by the groups as "a period of disarray at both the commission and staff levels."
Adding new members, the groups argue, would also help diversify the skill set of the commission, enhance community representation and enable commissioners "to tackle the large and important workload they have cut out for them."
Nineteen groups signed the letter, including the ACLU of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, the NAACP Milwaukee Branch, Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC) and Black Lives Matter to Wisconsin Unitarian Universalists. [See the full list in the letter attached below]
"At this moment, it is critical that the City of Milwaukee and the MPD rebuild trust with the public. Meaningful oversight will go a long way towards this goal," according to the letter.
TMJ4 News reached out to Mayor Barrett's Office Monday, but have not received a comment regarding the letter.
In the letter, the groups highlight some of the types of incidents they believe have led to heightened tensions between the FPC and the Milwaukee Police Department: deaths in custody, aggressive responses to largely peaceful demonstrations, and policing strategies such as racial profiling and unconstitutional stops.
The groups also issued a number of bullet points suggesting the qualities new members of the FPC should have:
1. Have first-hand knowledge about the issues young people are facing.
2. Represent targeted populations that have high degrees of police contact.
3. Have the ability to analyze data and think critically.
4. Have the ability to ask difficult questions of authority figures.
5. Have the abilities to advocate for the community regarding police issues in the City of Milwaukee and to work with diverse constituencies (i.e., the MPD, the MFD, elected officials, and the community) in an oversight role.
6. Have the ability to make policy and procedural recommendations.
7. Have the ability to develop and use outreach strategies to obtain and incorporate input into
consideration of MPD policies and procedures and their impacts on the community.
8. Are committed to attending substantially all FPC meetings, to actively participate in those meetings and other non-meeting work of the commission, and to work collaboratively with fellow commissioners.
Read the letter below: