Milwaukee FPC says directive to end use of police tear gas has been 'shamelessly exploited and distorted'

NOW: Milwaukee FPC says directive to end use of police tear gas has been ’shamelessly exploited and distorted’

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- In a sign of the tension between city leadership and police, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales took press questions sitting next to his attorney Tuesday, Aug. 4.

“We are under scrutiny and under attack," Morales said. "I felt the need to obtain an attorney.”

MPD released a video Tuesday night, detailing the use of chemical agents during six civil disturbance incidents. 

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission sent directives to Morales, and threatened to fire him if they aren’t followed.

Those directives include working to end the use of tear gas, one of the changes the Milwaukee Common Council urged the FPC to make.

“For many onlookers, including people that are elected to represent the constituency of the city, those chemical irritants were used in a way that was inappropriate,” Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson said.

Hundreds have now signed an open letter asking Mayor Tom Barrett to overrule the FPC and rescind those directives.

The letter was started by the Hispanic Collaborative in Milwaukee.

"There are definitely parts of it that are a personal vendetta with individuals on the Fire and Police Commission," Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation President Ruban Burgos said. "Even their own private investigator rules that there are ethical questions.”

The letter called on Barrett to make changes to the FPC, which has had a vacuum of leadership, calling the citizen body which oversees the Milwaukee Police Department in a state of "disarray:" 

"The Fire and Police Commission’s activity has been in disarray since last year. There have been calls for greater transparency by aldermen, commissioners and other elected officials; calls for the resignation of the chair; calls for launching an investigation into the commission as well as now a formal ethics investigation into actions of the chair. Its recent actions lacked transparency and public input and reek of ulterior motive."

The controversial tear gas practice became more controversial when police departments from across the country said they were backing out of providing security for the 2020 Democratic National Convention without being able to use it. The FPC said the critiques "shamelessly exploited and distorted" that directive.

The FPC sent a statement that read, in part: 

"We stand at a crucial crossroads in our country's, and Milwaukee's history. We are in the midst of an urgent and overdue national reckoning on race and policing in this country. Only with transparency, accountability and truth will we move forward as a society. This discussion may make some uncomfortable, and may bluntly scare others. But that is no excuse for political fabrications and feeble attempts to gaslight the public about our steadfast commitment to public safety."

Johnson said the city doesn’t need departments who can’t work without tear gas, but is grateful to departments like Green Bay that have committed to come anyway.

“I'm very grateful to those departments, not just in Wisconsin, but across America that will keep their commitment to Milwaukee and the DNC.”

Chief Morales said he is following the directives that were given to him. Mayor Tom Barrett's office said the chief has not requested he veto any of those directives.

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