Fire & Police Commission permanently discharges Richard Schoen

MILWAUKEE — First he was fired, then reinstated. Now, MPD Officer Richard Schoen has been permanently discharged following a contentious meeting held by Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission on Tuesday morning, December 11th.

Schoen was fired by Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, after he was seen on dashcam video punching a female suspect, then dragging her out of a squad car by her hair in an MPD garage. Schoen told the Commission panel he was afraid the female suspect would bite him or spit on him. Chief Flynn told the panel Schoen lost control.

Following the incident, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission reversed Chief Ed Flynn’s firing of Milwaukee Police Officer Richard Schoen. Instead, the FPC gave Schoen a 60-day suspension.

At a Fire and Police Commission meeting on Thursday, December 6th, community activists showed up to express their frustrations that the Commission allowed Schoen to have his job back. Their demonstration led to the Commission to announce they would review the panel’s decision to re-instate Schoen.

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission held a contentious meeting Tuesday morning, at which time they decided unanimously to permanently discharge Richard Schoen.

It took commissioners about an hour to reverse their own ruling, after one commissioner said he didn't understand the governing legal standards. Commissioners have reportedly been translating their decision into written form, and it was then they discovered they had made a mistake.

In simple terms, the words: "the good of the service requires" were not included in documentation used to deliberate Schoen's initial punshiment. Commissioner Michael O'Hear said the Commission also believed Chief Flynn had to prove his firing was justified. With these two issues in mind, the Commission again deliberated Schoen's fate on Tuesday.

Schoen was not present for Tuesday morning's meeting, but his attorney appeared on his behalf.

"The decision was rendered. Anything further than what you have done thus far and reducing your rendered decision to a written decision would violate not only the statute, but your own rules," Schoen's attorney Jonathan Cermele said.

The complete reversal from reinstatement to termination has not been done before by the Commission.

The Commission did not change its decision on Schoen's guilt -- just the punishment he will receive.

When asked how commissioners could misunderstand their own governing policies, the Commission's executive directory said -- mistakes happen.

"We don't have a perfect system of citizen oversight, but we've got one of the best systems out there. The system worked today," Mike Tobin said.

Michael Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association issued the following statement in response to the FPC's decision: “The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission heard 14 hours of testimony during a hearing, which was open to the public; they rendered a fair and responsible decision.  It is unfortunate that the FPC has now reversed that decision!  On behalf of the membership of the Milwaukee Police Association and the family of Officer Schoen – we are extremely disappointed in the Commission. The Association will review available options.”

The Commission is working on a written decision that would further explain Tuesday's actions and its assessments of the overall case. Commissioners are hoping to have that written decision completed on Wednesday, December 12th.

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