A New Look Fire and Police Commission
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is a very important institution that has oversite of both the fire and police department. The Milwaukee board is one of the oldest […]
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is a very important institution that has oversite of both the fire and police department. The Milwaukee board is one of the oldest and most powerful in the country. Some people might not know but this is a civilian oversite board that gives community members a direct say in how these departments is run. The board was created in 1885 by state lawmakers with the intention of keeping politics out of public safety. Among the duties that the commission has are hiring the police and fire chiefs, recruiting and testing new police and fire employees, investigating and monitoring citizen complaints, disciplining employees for misconduct and hearing disciplinary appeals, among other duties.
In the past many has looked at the commission as a rubber stamp especially for the police department leaving a lot of people upset. That started to change in 2017 when the commission approved a new version of the Police Departments immigration policy to address concerns from faith, immigrant and civil rights groups. Several board members publicly criticized the department for a lack of transparency and respect for the commission as it related to the immigration changes.
Two years ago, the commission fired Police Chief Alfonso Morales and now all but one of the commissioners that made the decision have been replaced. In addition, the mayor has recommended two new members to bring the new total of commissioners to nine (9). The usual amount has been seven (7) for years now. This has been long sought by community members and city officials. The Executive Director of the commission Leon Todd praised the decision by the mayor to expand the commission. “It will allow for greater public representation on the FPC board, it will enhance their ability to perform their significant workload” and ultimately expand their capacity to oversee the fire and police departments, Todd told the Public Safety and Health Committee.
The two newest commissioners who are being considered by the common council are Menomonee Falls Fire Chief Gerald Washington and Ruben Burgos who retired with 30 years with the Milwaukee Police Department. Washington was an assistant fire chief when he left the city in 2019.
When the newest two members are confirmed, it should be the beginning of a new era and hopefully a new respect for the commission that keeps the fire and police departments in line and in check for the community.