CBS 58 Exclusive: Chief Morales speaks out on recent criticism, calls to defund MPD

CBS 58 Exclusive: Chief Morales speaks out on recent criticism, calls to defund MPD

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales opened up about racism in the city, the "defund the police" movement, criticism his department has received, and how the department has tried to improve relations with the community.

Chief Morales met one-on-one with CBS 58's Brendan Cullerton for an inclusive interview Thursday, June 11. He joined our crew at his neighborhood on the north side of the city, to talk about how police are working to implement reforms people are asking for. He also talked about problems within the department and how he handles police misconduct. 

With a performance review looming, Chief Morales said he wants the job because he cares about Milwaukee. 

"I'm obviously here in the neighborhood I grew up in. I am a product of a ton of mentorship in this city," said Morales. 

Chief Morales received public criticism for comparing recent treatment of officers to the crucifixion of Christ. 

"An angry mob came before people to say "crucify that man," said Morales during a news conference on Friday, June 5. 

Morales said he's a religious man and has no regrets. 

"Some of the things that I’ve talked about my faith may hit people under the belt, but I read my daily devotion," Morales said. 

The chief says his department has certainly had problems, but they have worked to improve relationships, and avoid targeting communities of color over the past two years. 

"An ACLU lawsuit two years ago that we settled in the summer of 2018, and we also had an incident with a Milwaukee Bucks player. Let’s not forget it... but when we go back, there’s been a lot of changes with the department to date," Morales said. 

Morales said racism is a problem in the entire city and needs to be fought by the entire community. 

CBS 58's Brendan Cullerton: "Is police violence toward civilians, especially civilians of color, a problem in Milwaukee today?" 

MPD Chief Morales: "We really push and we scrutinize our arrests... part of the ACLU lawsuit, we have to review body camera. And when incidents occur, we address them... we have bad apples -- every organization does -- and we try to weed that out so that the majority of the department which reflects the positiveness in the organization continues to reflect that.”

While Morales says defunding police would spread them too thin, he does believe his department handles issues like domestic violence, addiction, and mental health that would better be served from other professionals that need more funds. 

"We have to be psychologists, we have to be sociologists, we have to be medical doctors," Morales said. "We have to be negotiators when somebody is trying to commit suicide."

Morales said the violent component of frustration with police has been far less in Milwaukee than other cities. 

"That required the call for the National Guard. That required the call for all hands on deck to be able to do it safely," said Morales. 

He says the department has work to do on handling demonstrations -- mostly with communication. 

"Public communication and getting certain messages out that were more informative," Morales said. 

City leaders have called on citizens to report any issues with the department to the Fire and Police Commission, which will soon review Morales' performance. 

Chief Morales' pitch is he's been part of the community his whole life, and he wants to continue making strides to bridge the department with the community. 

"Let's continue to work together," Morales said. "Our district captains are committed to really identifying the community leaders in their geographical area to make this work."

Watch an extended interview with Chief Morales below:

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