FPC says it will continue with MPD chief process after some council members call for 'temporary halt'

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission says it plans to move forward in the process to hire a new police chief, even after several Common Council members have called for a pause to the process. 

"For months we have heard public and private reports of dysfunction within the Commission from the level of senior staff on down. Many Common Council members have asked publicly whether there are enough staff members still on duty to perform even the most basic tasks of the Commission, much less to undertake the structural changes in both its own operation and those of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Departments that are so desperately needed," a letter sent to the Fire and Police Commission and City Attorney Tearman Spencer said in part. 

The letter was signed by seven members of the common council, including Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, Alderman Robert Bauman, Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd, Alderwoman Milele Coggs, Alderman Mark Borkowski, and Alderman Russell Stamper. 

The letter comes after Executive Director Griselda Aldrete stepped down from her role last week. Commissioner Raymond Robakowski also left the commission. In an interview with CBS 58 last week, he said "There was a lot of, in my mind, dysfunction" and that "There were individuals that had their own agenda, and in my mind, it wasn't for the betterment of the Milwaukee Police Department or the Milwaukee Fire Department."

"The chief you select will be faced with immense challenges. He or she must have the strong support of the community. He or she should not be selected under a deep cloud of uncertainty like that presently hanging over the Commission. There is senior leadership within the Police Department sufficient to manage a brief pause in the process made in the interest of the public good," the letter from the council members goes on to say. 

At a meeting Thursday night, Chairman Nelson Soler said staffing was not an issue in the process to select the chief and that they would move forward with the process, adding that they had known for several months Executive Director Aldrete was leaving. 

The top three finalists will take part in two public meetings this month. The first will be on Saturday, November 7th and the second will be on Saturday, November 21. The meetings will be virtual and will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

The FPC has received some criticism for the process to hire the chief thus far, including from the chairman and vice chair of the commission, after the majority of the commission decided the top six candidates should be interviewed in private, instead of in public like originally planned. 

"I am still objecting to any of this being done in closed session and will wait until the candidates that are chosen by the board are brought forward and then questioned in open session by the community," Vice Chair Angela McKenzie said at the time. 

CBS 58 also talked to one of the top six finalists, who did not make the top three, who thought the interviews should also be conducted in public. 

"It’s my opinion that the six candidates should have presented to the public, public facing, to ask those questions of those candidates, and the commission could have participated in that questioning as well. In one of the meetings, I hear a commissioner state that they did not want to ask certain questions in public that they wanted to ask in private. Well I’ll tell you, myself personally, I didn’t get asked any questions that couldn’t have been asked in the public," said John Pate, who is currently serving as City Manager and Director of Public Safety for the City of Opa-locka Florida. 

Pate described the interview process as "unstructured" with not all commissioners asking questions. 

"I don’t see this to be a fair process on behalf of the residents and stakeholders of the city of Milwaukee. It’s not being unfair for me, it’s not about being unfair for me, I participate in these processes all the time, the question is what is in the best interest of the residents and the stakeholders of the City of Milwaukee?" he said. 

If you'd like to sign up for the November 7 meeting for the top three finalists, click here. For the November 21 meeting, click here. 

If you can't attend, but would like to submit a question, click here. 

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