MILWAUKEE - Amid calls for an investigation into the decision by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission to demote former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales in August, Acting Chief Jeffrey Norman said he wants to be the permanent chief. Norman officially took over Wednesday, Dec. 23, following Acting Chief Michael Brunson's scheduled retirement.
Norman was among the original candidates for Milwaukee police chief during a nationwide search, but he was not on the list of finalists.
Despite all the uncertainty surrounding the position, Norman told FOX6 News he wants to be the permanent Milwaukee police chief.
"It’s a position where you are here to accomplish the mission at hand," said Norman. "We are dealing with a very large transitional period for this department."
Norman takes over at a time when Milwaukee County has seen record homicides, and amid pleas for police reform. Norman said these tasks are nothing new.
"We have a lot of priorities out there in the city," said Norman. "Violent crime, reckless driving, the community engagement. Those are big priorities to me that I understand. I’ve been working on that over the 24 and a half years on this job, and continue to do so."
Who will be the next Milwaukee police chief remains up in the air. Morales has retired from the department and filed a lawsuit over his demotion. A judge on Dec. 18 reversed the FPC's decision to demote Morales, but court documents did not make any other directives immediately clear regarding that decision's impact on the police department or the FPC.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued this statement Monday:
"In consultation with the City Attorney’s Office, we understand the circuit court’s recent ruling reinstated Alfonso Morales to his former rank as Chief of Police. Chief Morales voluntarily retired from service on August 8, 2020. It is the City Attorney’s position that he is no longer a retired Captain; rather, he is a retired Chief of Police."
"There are some serious problems we have right now with the Fire and Police Commission," said Mayor Barrett.
Morales' legal team strongly disagrees with that assessment.
Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson has asked the inspector general to investigate Morales' demotion. In the meantime, his lawsuit could be costly, as the city admitted he was not given due process.
Johnson issued this statement to FOX6 News:
"The decision by the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners to demote Alfonso Morales from the rank of chief to that of captain without due process has placed the City in a difficult legal position. Taxpayers deserve to know how this breakdown occurred and how the FPC and City Attorney’s Office will correct it moving forward. I’ve asked the Inspector General to investigate how the FPC arrived at that decision because the reports that council members have received so far have conflicted."
"I don’t know who was in the room when they made the decision," said Mayor Barrett.
Commissioner Ann Wilson said the FPC sought legal advice.
"Let me put it this way: We reach out," said Wilson. "The city attorney was in the room."
Despite all the uncertainty, Norman insisted his focus will be evaluating what is working and what is not within MPD.
"I love this city," he said. "I’ve been a part of this city all my life. As a current resident, as a family man that has children in this city, I am vested in the good and welfare of this city."
Mayor Barrett said Wednesday the search for a permanent police chief is ongoing, but added that he has a lot of confidence in Norman, as do others on the Common Council.