Amid criticism, petition supports Chief Morales: 'You don't give yourself like that if you don't care'

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales continues to face mounting criticism, including from the ACLU of Wisconsin Wednesday, June 10, but a petition with 2,000 signatures and counting shows support for the chief. One of those signatures came from someone who said it's her turn to stand alongside the chief.

During protests across the city in the wake of the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, demonstrators have called for change, including at the Milwaukee Police Department.

"Law enforcement is being crucified," said Chief Morales during a news conference Friday, June 5.

Chief Morales and Devennuette Prince

A petition calls for Chief Morales to resign, while another backs him up.

"Although we need police reform, I also feel like persecuting the good ones is not the way to go," said Devennuette Prince.

In signing the petition, Prince wrote, "I am a retired officer with personal knowledge of the character and dedication of Chief Morales."

Prince said the chief supported her during 26 years on the department -- even when she sued the city over employment discrimination.

"As a black woman, it's hard to be a supervisor on the police department, especially when you're supervising majority of men, and so, for him to say, I supported you as a supervisor, and didn't agree with what happened to you, that said a lot to me," said Prince.

"I'm angry because we are not being believed," said Chief Morales during Friday's press conference.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales

The retired officer said Morales' strongest leadership skill is his ability to listen.

"I think Chief Morales has been doing that from the time that he's been on the department," said Prince. "You just don't give yourself like that if you don't care."

On Wednesday, the ACLU of Wisconsin called MPD's approach to the protests "callous and counterproductive," issuing this statement:

"The ACLU of Wisconsin today criticized Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales for the Milwaukee Police Department’s failure to fulfill its legal obligation to implement community policing measures, as well as for overly aggressive policing tactics in the recent protests. The organization demanded immediate action be taken to comply with court-ordered reform measures and halt the use of force against demonstrators.

"In comments submitted to the Fire and Police Commission in advance of the FPC’s review of the Chief’s performance, the ACLU stated that the MPD has fallen short of meeting the requirements of the 2018 Settlement Agreement in the Stop and Frisk case brought against the MPD, the City, and the Fire and Police Commission.

“We are very concerned that the Chief – who is ultimately responsible for ensuring MPD’s compliance with the settlement agreement our clients reached with the city -  has largely put the community engagement provisions of the agreement on the back burner,” said Karyn Rotker, ACLU of Wisconsin Senior Staff Attorney. “Two years have passed since the settlement was finalized, and reforms meant to strengthen community policing have not even been attempted, much less put into place. Especially in this moment, after the murders of George Floyd and Joel Acevedo have frayed the community's relationship with law enforcement even further, the least we can expect the MPD - and the City -  to do is to be proactive in embracing the reforms they committed to in court”

"For example, the department has yet to issue its required twice-yearly Community Policing Status Report, to inform citizens of how the MPD is engaging in community policing. In addition, the Milwaukee Community Collaborative Committee, which was established to obtain community input on MPD’s policing, has yet to even meet.

"The ACLU also objects to the Chief’s response to the wave of protests that have broken out in the wake of the Floyd and Acevedo killings.

“The way in which MPD has reacted to the thousands of grieving and outraged people taking to the streets in protest of Black and Brown people being killed at the hands of police has been callous and counterproductive,” said Molly Collins, Advocacy Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “The top priority of the police at this moment should be respecting the rights of protesters and diffusing tension, but on many occasions we have seen officers use excessive force, firing tear glass, shooting rubber bullets and making unlawful and unwarranted arrests. This type of militarized approach only escalates emotionally-charged situations and reinforces the very conduct and culture protesters are demonstrating against.”

"The ACLU is joining groups including the Movement for Black Lives calling for divestment from law enforcement and reinvestment in the Black and Brown communities they unjustly target. Specifically the ACLU is calling for:

    Chief Morales is set to undergo his six-month review process before the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission later in June.