MILWAUKEE — A Dallas Police Major hopes he can bring his progressive style to the Milwaukee Police Department as its next chief.
“Whatever city that decides they want Malik Aziz as a progressive police chief, that’s it,” Major Malik Aziz said. “I’m a big city commander. Those things are commonplace, working with communities and progressive cities like Dallas. The Dallas Police Department is a very progressive police department. Very progressive for community relations.”
Aziz is one of six finalists for the Milwaukee Police Chief position. TMJ4 has interviewed all six candidates. While discussing a variety of topics, all of the candidates answered the same three questions:
- 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?
As far as wanting to be the chief in Milwaukee, Aziz feels Cream City is attractive in more ways than one.
“It has challenges but it also has opportunities,” Azis said. “Those are things you will put in the mix to want to move forward in a city like Milwaukee. The opportunity is to bridge the gap between policing and the community. That is the number one thing that I see.”
Aziz says he’s worked at bridging that gap in Dallas for the last 15 years, connecting with the community in a variety of ways. You could find him behind the counter at a Starbucks serving coffee to residents or handing out toys during the holidays. In the hot, Texas summers, he’d get into an ice cream truck to deliver a sweet treat to kids. They’re simple ways he hoped to establish more quality connections with the community he’s serving and protecting.
“When you see any kind of divide, you want to bridge it,” Aziz said. “When you see things that are close, you want to maintain. I think that’s the biggest opportunity I see, to bring the community and police department together.”
It may seem like a novel concept but Aziz says he’s been doing this for so long, he’s surprised when departments have only recently started it.
“I’m a big fan on making sure we know that we cultivate young minds,” Aziz said. “Those things are commonplace in my history. I see it as normal. You have a tendency not to brag on those things because it’s just normal when you have a progressive police department and normalize excellent behavior for moving forward.”
Dallas has more than twice as many residents as Milwaukee and it’s nearly four times larger in size. The demographics are different, with a large Latino population, but it’s equally as diverse. In order to establish these relationships and make the most impact, Aziz focuses on connecting with the youth. Whether it’s handing out ice cream or re-establishing the Police Activities League, where children can learn about various sports, competition and find role models.
“One thing that I’m very proud of in our history was restarting the Police Athletic Activities League,” Aziz said. “It engaged with us. I’m a big guy on engaging the youth.”
In Dallas, that strategy has had long-term benefits.
“Cultivating young minds and changing your attitude is a better way to reduce crime reduction and solve some of the criminal issue that take place,” Aziz said. “For new generations will inherit leadership position, it's better to have them on your side and not push them away.”
His efforts with the community were rewarded in 2016. The community embraced the police department after five officers were killed by a domestic terror extremist.
“It was the most terrible day in my career,” Aziz said. “It was mentally and physically draining.”
In the aftermath, Aziz says the activists and police were able to come together, largely because of the relationships they had established through his progressive strategies.
“People wondered, how could that happen in a city like Dallas?” Aziz said. “A city that was so embracing and that embrace the community policing philosophy from youth to seniors? That’s how you handle it. So, we didn’t stop. We doubled down to embrace the community even more. We separated the actions of a person, who was obviously suffering some mental psychosis and committed one of the most horrible acts of tragedy that our city has seen.”
He was able to separate what that man did in 2016 from the message of the protesters. He didn’t lay blame to the movement. If anything, it further solidified why he supports the protesters message; even if it’s negative about his profession.
“I have no issue with it,” Aziz said. “Being a Black man in America is something I can’t run away from. Peacefully protesting is what you want and you don’t want anything else from riots or civil uprisings taking place. But, that often becomes the voice of those people who are disenfranchised and unheard. So, it doesn’t bother me. What it makes me want to do is step in and also again, offer my experience to a situation to meet like minds who want to see a better city and want to see better policing. I think police want to see better policing too. That’s what we strive for.”
He’s not stopping at just creating the relationships. It’s the first step towards achieving real change.
“I like to get from the protesting to the speaking to the action,” Aziz said. “The action is, what are we going to do about it? Can we make it better? The protest will not serve anybody any service until you’re able to meet and come to some kind of negotiation or compromise to have a better Milwaukee. That means we have a 50/50 partnership in what we do. This is a mountain, not a mole hill here. It takes patience. It takes strategy. It takes intelligence and there are a lot of things you have to put into that.””
Aziz is born and raised in Dallas. He graduated from Carter High School, the opposing team portrayed in the Texas State Championship game in the 2004 Film "Friday Night Lights." Carter actually beat Permian High School in the semi-final.
Aziz was also a finalist for the Dallas Police Department Chief position in 2017. The department went another way but that chief just resigned in September. So, the position he was passed over for three years ago is open again. He was considered a front-runner for that position internally. But he says, if Milwaukee comes calling, he will gladly call himself the Chief of Police in Cream City.
"I'm not just putting my eggs in one basket," Aziz said. "I love the City of Dallas. I grew up here. I made my name here. I went all aroudn the world with that Dallas Police badge on my shoulder. That spoke volumes from here to London. So people know me across the pond and that was all because of Dallas Police. If you say tomorrow, Dallas Police came forward and said, you will be the police chief, of course I would take it. But, if Milwaukee came tomorrow and said, we want you to be the police chief, guess where I'm at? I'll be on the first plane to Milwaukee."
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission says they expect to select the next police chief by Dec. 3.
To learn more about the other five candidates vying for the position, please click the links below:
- Pittsburgh Commander, Jason Lando
- Portland Deputy Chief Chris Davis
- Rufus King graduate, FBI Special Agent, Hoyt Mahaley
- Opa-Locka, Florida City Manager, John E. Pate