MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman has been named one of three finalists for Wauwatosa police chief, but Milwaukee leaders say they’re making a big push to keep Norman as permanent chief in Milwaukee.
First, Milwaukee needs to resolve its ongoing court battle with former Chief Alfonso Morales. Mayor Tom Barrett and several aldermen said Thursday that they want to pay former Chief Morales to not come back and instead keep Acting Chief Norman permanently. But obstacles stand in the way of that becoming a reality.
Milwaukee’s interim police chief Norman appears to be on the cusp of a permanent role as two neighboring cities eye him to be their potential next chief.
“I just had my arm around the Common Council President in Milwaukee and we were playfully fighting over Chief Norman,” said Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride.
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Mayor McBride acknowledges it isn’t his choice to make, but he likes what Norman could bring to Wauwatosa after a tumultuous year of clashes between protesters and police.
"He's highly regarded, and he has a law degree, which as a lawyer and an elected official, that has a great deal of appeal to me,” Mayor McBride said.
While Wauwatosa’s chief search presses forward with public interviews next week and final interviews the following week, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he doesn’t want to lose Norman.
"I think Acting Chief Norman has done an excellent, excellent job and that's a decision that will be made by the Fire and Police Commission. But I can tell you, I think he would be a very solid police chief in Milwaukee,” Mayor Barrett said.
FBI special agent and Milwaukee native Hoyt Mahaley has been left in limbo for more than half a year as the only remaining finalist on the Fire and Police Commission’s list for Milwaukee police chief.
"Things have obviously changed a lot,” Mayor Barrett said. “I think Hoyt's a very good person, but right now I think we need the stability. But a lot of this is going to depend on what Acting Chief Norman wants to do as well."
Common Council President Cavalier Johnson also believes Norman deserves to be named permanent chief for the steps he’s taken to address police relations with Milwaukee’s Black community and efforts to reduce crime.
"We need to put the pedal to the metal, we need to work really hard in order to find the ground to make sure we can go our separate ways with Alfonso Morales and have Jeff Norman as chief of police,” Johnson said.
This week, the city of Milwaukee announced it is entering mediation with former Chief Morales to see if they can agree on a monetary settlement.
“There has to be a recognition that we as a city have to move on and I don’t want us to be held hostage for an unfair payment to the former chief,” Mayor Barrett said.
Alderman Robert Bauman worries those negotiations won’t be ironed out until after Wauwatosa chooses its chief and Milwaukee is left relaunching its search yet again.
"The fact that we're going to lose him or have a very high probability of losing him, because of all this confusion and ridiculous legal activity at the Fire and Police Commission, is truly sad for the citizens of Milwaukee,” Alderman Bauman said.
If the city can’t agree on a settlement with former Chief Morales, he will be reinstated as Milwaukee’s chief on July 3 per a judge’s order.