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MPD Chief candidate open to defunding strategies

Posted at 6:20 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 10:16:38-04

MILWAUKEE — A suburban Miami City Manager hopes to utilize his variety of experience as Milwaukee’s next police chief.

“My background experience in the Chicago metropolitan area, both with traditional law enforcement roles as well as administrative and executive law enforcement roles, that prepares me to take the Milwaukee Police Department to the next level,” John E. Pate said.

Pate is currently the City Manager for Opa-Locka, Fla., a small Miami suburb. But don’t let that title fool you. Pate is a U.S. Army veteran. He’s served in various sworn law enforcement roles; a lieutenant with the Village of Phoenix, Ill., Police Inspector with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police with the Village of University Park and, as City Manager of Opa-Locka, he’s also a sworn law enforcement officer as the Director of Public Safety.
“If you look at my background, I have a lot of experience and public corruption inspector general work as well as reorganizing and reinventing organizations,” Pate said.

Pate is one of six candidates The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission announced as finalists for the position of Milwaukee Police Chief. 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?

Pate says he wants to come to Milwaukee because he believes his experience can make change. It’s why reorganizing and reinventing the Milwaukee Police Department is a focus of his. He got into this business to try and make change.

“I always told myself, I will never be that officer that treated me so horribly or be the officer that hit me and got away with it,” Pate said. “The community no longer trusts law enforcement. The police have been involved in a lot of issues and people have not been held accountable. That gives plenty of room for negativity and is pleading for infiltration of negativity in which it breaks down in morale in good order of law enforcement agents.”

In order to make that change, like all candidates have mentioned, he wants to repair relationships with the community. However, unlike most of the candidates, Pate has worked almost exclusively in communities with a majority of Black and brown residents.

“I pride myself on engaging all demographics, including Black and brown communities because the Black and brown communities are most at risk as far as going to jail, having negative interactions with law enforcement and various different things like that,” Pate said.

To try and create those positive interactions, Pate gets involved with the community, hosting toy drives and reading to children every month.

“That builds that trust up back with the kids,” Pate said. “The kids got to trust law enforcement. Right now, as a police officer, you walk up to a child and they’re terrified. They see a gun and they see a badge. They’re terrified. What they see on TV and they know what occurs or what they’ve been told occurs by their mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, whoever it may be. It’s important to start indoctrinating law enforcement into the classroom environment and see that person is there to help them, educate them, help them grow.”

He sees the actions in the streets all in Milwaukee and across the country as well. He’s supportive of social and racial justice reform, including 21st Century Policing models. He believes departments need to evolve where officers follow a guardian mentality instead of that of a warrior.

“We’re so quick to put out tactical resources on a problem instead of just being opposite,” Pate said. “Let’s put our people out there to advocate on behalf of the residents, and let’s put our people out there that can calm things down. Do these pop-up block parties, pop-up prayer vigils, pop-up anti-violence walks. Me, myself being out there, playing catch and throwing a football around, not for show, but because it’s how I feel. We need to move from reactive policing to proactive policing.”

That also includes community policing.

“We kind of saturate the area with community policing officers,” Pate said. “In order to quell violence, quell the worry, bring people down.”

Pate wants to get involved with the activists, faith leaders, the stakeholders in the neighborhoods who are seeing the crime.

“I think community activists can be your best friend,” Pate said. “Especially if you’re explaining your point of view and you’re able to get your narrative out. If I had a key group of activists that I could interact with after an officer involved shooting happens, someone I know has the pulse of the community and can stop civil unrest? Hey, why not use that source?”

Keeping in mind, the Milwaukee Common Council supported defunding measures for the police department in the form of a 10 percent budget reduction. It is not something that has been voted upon officially, but in essence, the department would cut about $30 million from its budget.

Pate also holds a master's in Business Administration and has had a keen eye on government finances. He identified $14 million in quesitonable Tax Incremental Funding (TIF) transfers while with University Park and has generated millions more, roughly $8 million, in funding for his departments.

So, if he’s selected as Milwaukee’s next Police Chief, he’s ready for any questions on defunding the department.

“The biggest issue is defining what defunding the police is,” Pate said. “I definite it as reallocating law enforcement funds towards crime prevention programs. Such as, social service programs, getting mental health advocates at each precinct, having a psychologist or psychiatrist on staff to respond to the critical incident within an hour, having programs in place to reduce recidivism rates. That’s how I foresee defunding the police. It’s not handicapping the police. It’s using some of the police funds the police department has available to them and reallocating them towards crime suppression and crime prevention programs and initiatives. Realistically, anything can happen. Just because you are looking at reducing funds by 10 percent does not mean there are no alternative funding measures available.”

But all of these measures have one focus in mind; regaining trust.

“We’re talking about community trust,” Pate said. “Look at the last hundred days of marching. That tells you the level of confidence the public and stakeholders have in the city of Milwaukee’s community engagement program and how the police community engagement works within the city. It’s absolutely imperative that a sound, solid and measurable community engagement strategy is put into place and cultivated within the current culture and climate of the Milwaukee Police Department.”

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission says it still hopes to select the next chief by December 3.

To learn more about the other MPD Chief candidates, you can click on the following links:

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