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Public hears from two proposed new members of Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission for first time

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The public heard from two proposed new members of Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission for the first time on Monday.

Mayor Tom Barrett chose the candidates and introduced them at a question and answer session at the Journey House Community Center.

Barrett said he wanted to pick new commission members who were retired and had experienced some time since serving on the Milwaukee fire or Police departments.

But at times prospective commission member William Gelow seemed unprepared to answer basic questions.

In front of only about a dozen people who attended the early evening meeting Gelow was asked: "What is the most important issue for the fire and police commission?"

Gelow's response?

"I don't have any idea because I don't know what the issues are. You're looking at someone who's been in law enforcement for a lot of years. By the same token I've been away from it for 17 years," Gelow said.

He also said he knew nothing about the city's $3.4 million settlement with the ACLU over stop-and-frisk.

Gelos said he retired as a deputy chief after 41 years in the Milwaukee Police Department.

"I'm here not as a police officer. I'm here as a member of the fire and police commission. Not everything is so contentious," Gelow said.

The other potential commission member is Everett Cocroft. He is also retired with decades of experience on the Milwaukee Fire Department.

"And a lot of the best ideas, they don't come from people on the board - it comes from the people in the city. Citizens - they have great ideas," Cocroft said during one response in the Q&A.

Mayor Barret said: "What I'm looking for is when we look for a commissioner is are people who really have good judgment? This is all about judgment?"

But not everyone is pleased with the selections.

Critics note the two men would be replacements for two women. A supporter for Cocroft said this decision is important because she feels a need to restore trust.

"...and feel safe knowing that when we're at a stoplight and when a police car goes by we shouldn't have to have heart palpitation or feel afraid. We should be able to have confidence," Sheri Williams Pannell, who attended the hearing, said.

Ultimately the common council will have to approve the mayor's choices for commission members.

Another public question and answer session is set for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Villard Square Library's Community Room.

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