'What do they want?' Acting MPD chief outlines 1st initiative, sets up email address for public input

Hours after the acting Milwaukee police chief outlined his first initiative -- a plan to improve police and community relations, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission announced a local and national search for the city's next chief.

Acting Chief Michael Brunson said he wants to first listen to the public -- setting up an email address where he hopes to hear from the people of Milwaukee.

Acting MPD Chief Michael Brunson

"This idea came from the community," said Brunson in announcing his first move as acting chief. "What we want to do is find out what the broad community's thoughts or feelings are. What do they want? What issues do they have."

Brunson was joined by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Common Council President Cavalier Johnson and Adam Procell from Partners in Hope on Wednesday, Aug. 12 in announcing announced the "ReWaukee Project." The slogan for the ReWaukee Project is “Reform. Reimagine. Rebuild.” 

The first initiative under the ReWaukee Project is hosting numerous “speak out” sessions where all members of the community are invited to discuss the various issues involving police-community issues in a virtual format. Each group will be limited to under a dozen participants, be facilitated through a Milwaukee nonprofit and be documented by a professional consultant. The consultant will produce the results in a report that will be released publicly. 

The sessions are projected to begin in early September.

ReWaukee Project

Milwaukeeans can enroll by emailing: TalkToMPD@milwauee.gov.  

Brunson said he wants to hear from the public on their concerns and suggestions on what people want to see from the Milwaukee Police Department.

"We want that feedback," he said.

Alfonso Morales

Acting Chief Brunson was appointed by the FPC after the board demoted former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales Aug. 6. after he ordered officers to use tear gas to break up protests over George Floyd’s death. It was the last straw for some FPC members who were upset over how Morales has handled incidents since the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown in 2018.

Steven DeVougas

At the same meeting, Nelson Soler was also appointed as the FPC's 2020-21 chair, replacing Chairman Steven DeVougas, facing an ethics investigation, who remains on the board. Soler, the commission's current vice chair, was unanimously approved in a vote.

"Not only does the police department have new leadership, but we have new leadership within the Fire and Police Commission," said Mayor Barrett.

In a news release Wednesday announcing the search for the new chief, the FPC said the board is "dedicated to restoring trust and seasoned leadership within the Milwaukee Police Department and city of Milwaukee, and the board stands "together in our decision to change leadership during these critical times -- of not simply unrest -- but of civil rights movement."

"For groups that are calling out for systemic changes, to have a voice in this process, then I think that Is something we should take advantage of," said Common Council President Cavalier Johnson.

One of the public demands in recent protests has been to defund the police. When FOX6 News asked the acting chief if budget cuts were something he was prepared to deal with, he said his focus is on what he can control directly -- which is to engage with the department and the community. 

He said the budget is out of his control.

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