Acting MPD Chief Brunson plans to tackle high homicide rates, improve community relations

NOW: Acting MPD Chief Brunson plans to tackle high homicide rates, improve community relations

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee's new top cop is sharing his vision for the city now that he has officially been sworn in as acting chief.

Acting Milwaukee Police chief Michael Brunson has been with the Milwaukee Police Department since 1995. He had been serving as the assistant chief of the patrol bureau since 2018.

Brunson was sworn in Friday, August 7, in the Common Council Chambers surrounded by his family and members of his department.

"This (promotion) was definitely a surprise to me, but as I find myself here, I know that as a city, as an agency we have to move forward for the citizens of Milwaukee," Brunson said.

He said his top goals are addressing violent crime and building back up community relations.

"This is a challenging time as we all know right now across the country and in our own city as it relates to the relationship between the community and police," Brunson said.

He had been a finalist for the chief position in 2018 along with former Chief Alfonso Morales. The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission voted Thursday night to demote Morales down to captain. The move came after commissioners issued 11 directives to Morales in July, one of which questioned the use of police tear gas during protests in June.

On Friday, Executive Director Griselda Aldrete put her weight behind Brunson.

"We have the full confidence of his leadership to take us in a different direction but also bring us some peace and much needed stability to this city," Aldrete said.

CBS 58 asked Brunson whether he now has to comply with the directives the commission issued to his predecessor.

He responded: "That's one of the things that I'll be discussing. I don't have any information on that right now."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett acknowledged the tough time in which Brunson is taking over but encouraged the importance of working together, saying, "The police are here to stay and the community is here to stay."

"Whatever our differences are we have to put them behind us and make sure that he succeeds, that our city succeeds, that our residents succeed and that the police department succeeds," Barrett said.

There are questions about whether Brunson will be able to gain the trust of the senior ranking members but he said he will work with the Milwaukee Police Assocation.

The union released a statement Friday saying Morales' demotion marks "a sad day in Milwaukee."

Brunson said he did speak with Morales following the decision Thursday night but wants to keep the contents of their conversation private.

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