Watch: Chief Morales speaks out ahead of FPC vote on 'dismissal, demotion, licensing, or discipline'

The Milwaukee Police Department Wednesday evening, Aug. 5 responded to 11 directives issued by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission July 20, with noncompliance possibly costing the chief his job. The FPC scheduled a Thursday, Aug. 6 meeting during which commissioners will "vote on the dismissal, demotion, licensing, or discipline of Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales," according to the agenda. In its response, MPD said despite advice from the city attorney, the FPC has not allowed an extension on the directives. MPD added the city attorney already found one directive "inappropriate," with the rest under review.

Chief Morales spoke out Thursday morning ahead of the FPC vote:

The Milwaukee Police Department issued a 26-page "Executive Overview" of the FPC directives Wednesday evening, 52 pages of exhibits -- and this statement:

"It has always been, and remains, the Milwaukee Police Department’s intent to fully comply with the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission’s directives. To date, MPD has fully complied with every directive issued.

"MPD believes it is important for the public to understand that before a lawful directive may be issued by the FPC, there must be a review in a public meeting evidencing the Board’s deliberations, a meeting must be a collaborative review process including participation from the Chief, and directives should not be made without the benefit of supporting evidence. None of those instances occurred with the July 20, 2020 FPC directives.

"Upon review, each “Whereas clause” issued in the FPC directives is either false, misleading or lacking valuable context. The “Whereas clauses” attempt to paint a picture that MPD has been non-compliant or outright insubordinate with the FPC; therefore, apparently rendering the FPC unlimited authority to demand any information with penalty of discharge.

"Furthermore, the City Attorney’s Office has recommended that the timeline for all of MPD’s responses be extended so it can review the legality of the directives in their entirety. The FPC has declined to follow that recommendation, despite the City Attorney’s Office already finding that one directive is inappropriate while it is in the process of reviewing the other directives.

"The manner in which business is being conducted at the FPC causes alarm; therefore, the Milwaukee Police Department is providing an Executive Overview addressing the directives issued."

Earlier Wednesday evening, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's office released a letter sent to the FPC regarding Morales and the directives, reading as follows:

"Dear Fire and Police Commissioners:

Now more than ever, the Fire and Police Commission plays an essential role in our city as the oversight body on difficult issues regarding community relations and leadership for the public safety agencies that serve our city.

As you deliberate your decision on the election of Chair of the Commission for the upcoming year, I ask you to elect new leadership. In the coming weeks and months, the Commission has many important issues to address, including:

  • Orderly review of the directives issued to Chief Morales
  • Disciplinary hearing of Officer Michael Mattioli
  • Investigation of the video leak from the Milwaukee Police Department
  • Compliance and work of the ACLU settlement agreement

This is in addition to the ongoing work you must perform to allow the Police and Fire Departments to maintain professional and efficient operations. For example, work must be done to establish trust between our residents and our public safety agencies. It is imperative that you conduct a thorough review of the practices of the Police Department regarding use of force. The Commission must focus on these critical issues and not be distracted.

The Fire and Police Commission must have the city’s confidence that it is executing its duties in an impartial manner. I know you are committed to fairness and impartiality as well.

Commissioner DeVougas is currently the subject of a City Ethics Board investigation. He and the Milwaukee Police Department are also the subjects of an investigation regarding the video leak. Given these ethical concerns, Commissioner DeVougas should no longer serve in his position as chair.

We must ensure the integrity and independence of the Fire and Police Commission. I believe electing new leadership of the Commission and conducting an orderly review of the directives submitted to Chief Morales are important first steps. I trust that the Commission will make the right decisions on behalf of the City it represents."

MPD details use of tear gas

On Tuesday evening, in a 20-minute video, MPD defended its use of tear gas and other chemical irritants during protests in May and June. The video explaining the use of force in six incidents was released Tuesday as part of a directive from the FPC. This, days after groups expressed both criticism and support for the chief.

Tuesday was the deadline for the chief to "to provide a full, public and accurate explanation of the use of tear gas and large volumes of oleorsein capsicum spray during peaceful disturbances and the situations that warrant those tactics."

Days prior, two groups released statements in support of and in criticism of Chief Morales, and the FPC issued a statement to indicate this particular directive "has been shamelessly exploited and distorted."

Statement from FPC on tear gas directive

"Fire and Police Commission has issued a directive to increase police accountability and transparency following the largely peaceful protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN earlier this year."

"The specific directive that has been shamelessly exploited and distorted is Directive #1 (F), which specifically states: “That the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Milwaukee, does hereby direct Milwaukee Chief of Police Alfonso Morales to promptly provide a full, public, and accurate explanation of the use of tear gas and large volumes of oleoresin capsicum spray during peaceful civil disturbances and the situations that warrant those tactics within fifteen (15) days from today’s date (July 20, 2020). Deadline: August 4, 2020. The Chief shall work with the Board of the Fire and Police Commission in amending the proper SOP(s) to discontinue the use of chemicals mentioned above.”

"We stand at a crucial crossroads in our country's, and Milwaukee's history. We are in the midst of an urgent and overdue national reckoning on race and policing in this country. Only with transparency, accountability and truth will we move forward as a society."

"This discussion may make some uncomfortable, and may bluntly scare others. But that is no excuse for political fabrications and feeble attempts to gaslight the public about our steadfast commitment to public safety."

"The Fire and Police Commission has always, is now, and will always make the City’s safety the ultimate priority -- and that of course includes keeping the 2020 Democratic National Convention completely safe and secure."

Statement in support of Chief Morales 

On Monday, Aug. 3, members of the Mexican Fiesta Board released a letter sent to Mayor Barrett supporting Morales, and requesting the mayor overrule the directives issued by the FPC. 

The mayor's office issued this statement Wednesday afternoon: “According to media reports, Chief Morales has indicated he is actively working to comply with the directives. He has not stated any specific objection to the substance of the directives. Finally, he has not requested any vetoes.”        

Statement criticizing Chief Morales

On Tuesday, Aug. 4, the NAACP issued a letter blasting Morales' leadership and criticizing his job performance. 

FOX6 News on Wednesday, Aug. 5 talked with NAACP President Fred Royal about the directives and tactics used by MPD.

"I think if you want to be less combative and you really want to improve community relations, you need to learn new de-escalation techniques instead of resorting to the hammer every time there is an issue," said Royal. "The chief is actively working to comply with the fire and police commissions directives."

Below is a breakdown of all six of the incidents in which chemical irritants were used -- detailed in the video by MPD Assistant Chief Brunson:

May 29, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

May 29, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

Brunson said citizen behavior on this night included reckless driving, bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at officers and multiple shots fired from across the street in a parking lot. 

Meanwhile, a number of citizens tried to rush towards the building while making threats to officers, Brunson said.

He said businesses in the area were looted, and large chunks of concrete, debris, bricks, bottles and fireworks were thrown at officers.

Brunson said "gas was deployed in order to call citizens to disperse to try to bring a level of safety to that area after multiple citizens were put in danger, including police officers."

According to Brunson, no citizens reported injuries from this incident. One officer was shot in the foot while trying to address traffic clogging up Locust Street, and a second was treated for a concussion -- struck in the head with a piece of concrete.

May 30, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 7 near 36th Street and Fond du Lac Avenue

May 30, 11:30 p.m., MPD District 7 near 36th Street and Fond du Lac Avenue

With a curfew in effect, Brunson said this night saw a large crowd on foot and in vehicles, with people blocking traffic, throwing rocks, bottles and projectiles at officers standing in front of the police district.

Brunson also noted stores ni the immediate area were looted, and "individuals engaged in riotous behavior, using traffic cones to create barricades as officers tried to prevent them from moving towards them."

He said "less lethal munitions used" in front of D7 included OC irritant, and noted no "CS gas" was used.

Brunson said no citizens reported injuries from this incident. One officer suffered a dislocated shoulder while struggling with a citizen, he said.

May 31, 11:40 p.m., MPD District 7 near 5th Street and Locust Street

May 31, 11:40 p.m., MPD District 7 near 5th Street and Locust Street

Brunson estimated the crowd on this night at 1,500 people on foot and in vehicles, noting reckless driving, with people blocking traffic in both directions. He said citizens began climbing on the roof of the nearby Burger King restaurant and starting fires in the parking lot of the restaurant and the Fast and Friendly convenience store across the street from the police district.

He said citizens also threw rocks, bottles and fireworks and numerous shots were fired in the area. 

He added that people attempted to break through the police line that was there in an effort to protect the building and the squad cars in the lot, with one person shouting, "Burn it down."

Brunson said chemical irritants were used "to stop the citizens' actions."

No citizens reported injuries, and no officers were hurt, he said.

June 2, 7 p.m., 6th Street and McKinley Avenue

June 2, 7 p.m., 6th Street and McKinley Avenue

On this evening, Brunson said approximately 200 gathered on foot, along with 50 vehicles -- with citizens blocking police and civilian vehicles, striking squad cars and throwing rocks, bottles and asphalt. He said one person was seen urinating in an empty water bottle.

Warnings were given for the crowd to disperse, Brunson said, and an unlawful assembly was declared.

At this point, Brunson said citizens continued throwing objects at officers and refused to leave the area despite the "numerous and repeated warnings."

Brunson said smoke and OC gas were used in this incident.

June 4, 3:20 a.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

June 4, 3:20 a.m., MPD District 5 near 5th Street and Locust Street

As a crowd estimated at approximately 100 people and 20 vehicles gathered in the area, Brunson noted reckless driving, with people laying in the street, impeding travel. He said citizens climbed on police vehicles and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks at police personnel.

He said shots were fired in the parking lot across from the police district, and a vehicle that was part of the crowd fled, striking a citizen and two police officers. All three were hurt. That driver was later arrested. 

Brunson said smoke was used in that incident.

June 23, 4 p.m. 40th Street and Lloyd Street

According to Brunson, a crowd of 250 to 300 gathered following a "citizen-initiated investigation into two missing teenage girls the crowd believed were located in residence in that area.

Police initially "responded without armor to present soft approach," Brunson said, "believing possibly the crowd was reacting to officers on scene as they were jeering officers, using profanity towards officers," etc.

As the missing investigation was wrapping up, Brunson said a crowd rushed forward in front of a house in the area and began to enter it -- destroying items in the house and setting it on fire. 

Brunson noted multiple arsons during this incident, and also said bricks, bottles, boards and construction debris were thrown at officers.

Three people were shot in this incident. 

After three to four hours, Brunson said the crowd refused to leave, and there was reckless driving and cruising.

That night, some returned and the house was set on fire again, and bricks and bottles were again thrown at officers, along with fireworks -- with shots fired in the area, Brunson said.

Eight officers were hurt during the chaos, and Brunson noted that the officers "showed a lot of restraint."

MPD assistant chief defends use of tear gas

After laying out those six incidents, Brunson in the video discusses the definitions of civil disturbance and unlawful assembly -- noting the later is an "assembly that consists of three or more persons and that causes a disturbance of public order that's reasonable to believe it will cause injury or damage to property unless immediately dispersed."

Brunson noted attempts to quell the crowd in many of these instances -- adding that there were attempts made to reach out to community organizers to get them to calm the crowd. 

He said what we saw during these six incidents "was the type of behavior that would likely cause injury to citizens, and in some cases did."

The assistant chief added that "the MPD has absolutely no problem with peaceful protesting," and "we do not use chemical irritants toward peaceful protesters" encouraging citizens to exercise their rights "within the confines of the law." He said if there's a gathering that "begins to devolve into the type of behavior and conduct talked about here," warnings will be given, and those who remain on scene may be subject to arrest.

Chief Morales, noting the FPC's directive indicated he should work to amend SOP to discontinue use of these chemicals said, "A peaceful civil disturbance does not exist." 

In response to FPC directive, MPD releases video detailing use of tear gas during 6 'civil disturbances'

The deadline arrived Tuesday for some of the 11 directives handed down to Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, by the Fire and Police Commission, with noncompliance possibly costing him his job.

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