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“They’re trying to gut us:” Milwaukee FPC slams GOP bill to overhaul commission

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission could be in for some major changes, as part of a Republican-backed bill making its way through the state capitol.

Assembly Bill 606 would overhaul the current FPC, one of the oldest and most powerful civilian oversight boards in the nation.

Under that legislation, at least one commissioner would have to have law enforcement experience, and at least one commissioner would have to have professional firefighting experience. According to the city website, none of the current 7 members meet those requirements.

“They have no perspective for someone who’s actually been on the street,” says State Senator Van Wanggaard. “This would change that, and require that we have that expertise.”

Van Wanggaard is one of 15 suburban Republicans backing the bill, which focuses primarily on Milwaukee.

“Milwaukee should be independent and govern its own affairs, and the people who actually have to deal with the consequences should have the most say,” says FPC Chair Steven DeVougas.

DeVougas says he doesn’t think a lack of experience is preventing the current board from making decisions related to fire and police.

“We have 3 lawyers, 2 MBA’s, these are not just Joe-blow people,” says DeVougas. “These are really smart individuals who are asking tough questions and who want a safer and better Milwaukee.”

The bill would also require the city to continue paying officers and firefighters who are undergoing disciplinary hearings. Records show that could cost taxpayers over one-million dollars a year.

“It’s a million dollars of service that won’t be provided,” says Alderman Michael Murphy. “A million dollars of service that could go toward improving the streets, or hiring more police and firefighters. This doesn’t make any sense.”

The bill would also allow people living outside of Milwaukee to serve on the commission.

“All of it is detrimental,” says DeVougas. “It seems like they’re trying to gut the FPC.”

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