MPD chief emphasizes transparency, community relations in meeting with state lawmakers

Milwaukee’s Police Chief met with state lawmakers at City Hall on Thursday, one day after MPD released body camera footage of Bucks’ player Sterling Brown being tackled and tased during an arrest. 

Brown was never charged in connection with the incident. 

State Rep. Daniel Riemer, State Sen. Lena Taylor, and State Rep. David Crowley said they spoke with Chief Alfonso Morales about the need for increased communication between MPD and the public, which often takes place through the media, as well as a greater focus on community relations and de-escalation training for officers. 

“We want the chief to interact with the public,” Riemer said. 

The lawmakers said police told them two sergeants and one officer were disciplined in connection with the Brown incident, but that Morales didn’t elaborate on the punishments. 

“I’ve been here four months as Chief,” Morales said following the two-hour meeting. “I’m trying to be transparent and I’m going to be transparent, but I’m trying to do things within the legal boundaries that I have and the contractual boundaries I have when it comes to disciplining members and internal investigations.” 

La Keisha Butler, the new Executive Director of the Fire and Police Commission, said MPD is limited in what it can say about the incident because the law enforcement officers involved still have the option of appealing. 

“If we don’t follow those rules we end up subject to liability on the back end,” Butler said. 

Taylor said she was encouraged that Morales seemed receptive to her requests for better police-community relations and an emphasis on de-escalating tense situations. 

But she said any changes made going forward should impact all members of Milwaukee’s minority communities - not just high-profile African-Americans like Sterling Brown. 

“I want those changes for the people who can’t get the NBA to stand behind them,” Taylor said. 

Morales said he will continue to focus on transparency and building bridges with the community. 

“We really believe it’s important for our officers to the know the public,” Morales said. “If you know the public, you deal with the 10 percent and then have 90 percent of the people who support you.” 

“Give us a chance,” Morales said. “I’ve been here four months and we’re looking at changing the direction of the department.’ 
 

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