‘Not Good Government’: Milwaukee Police Chief Demoted Over Use of Tear Gas, Hasn’t Ruled Out Suing City

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Thomas Catenacci Energy & Environment Reporter
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The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission demoted the city’s police chief Thursday over his handling of protests and the department’s treatment of minority communities during his tenure, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Chief Alfonso Morales was demoted to the rank of captain after the civilian commission voted unanimously in favor of the measure, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Morales has not ruled out suing the city over the decision, according to his lawyer.

“His conduct is unbecoming, filled with ethical lapses and flawed decisions,” said Commissioner Raymond Robakowski, a former Milwaukee police officer, during the private meeting, video of which was leaked to the Journal Sentinel. “Mr. Morales has failed the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department, the people of the city of Milwaukee and he has misled me.”

The commission’s decision comes after weeks of tensions between Morales and the commission over certain department practices, the Journal Sentinel reported. (RELATED: Wisconsin Protesters Tear Down Statue Of Civil War Hero Who Fought To End Slavery)

The commission recently demanded public explanations of the Milwaukee Police Department’s use of tear gas and of specific investigations the department was conducting, according to the Journal Sentinel. The police commission went as far as to issue Morales seven pages of directives and threatened him with demotion if he did not comply.

FPC Chair Steven DeVougas speaks during the commission's meeting Thursday. (City of Milwaukee/Screenshot)

Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Chair Steven DeVougas speaks during the commission’s meeting Thursday. (City of Milwaukee/Screenshot)

Morales responded to the request for an explanation of the police’s use of tear gas in a statement Tuesday. Police officers used tear gas six times during more than 100 protests, according to the statement.

The department also released a video Tuesday in which Assistant Chief Michael Brunson explained each individual use of tear gas.

“The Milwaukee Police Department has absolutely no problem with peaceful protesters and we do not use chemical irritants toward peaceful protesters,” Brunson said. “We encourage people to exercise their rights, but we want them to do it within the confines of the law.”

Protests have occurred in Milwaukee and nationwide in response to the death of George Floyd. Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck, video of the incident shows.

Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Barrett said the police commission’s decision was “not good government,” according to the Journal Sentinel.

“I think it’s all really bad for our city,” Barrett said.

“I want to thank Alfonso Morales for his nearly 27 years of service and dedication to the City of Milwaukee,” Brunson, who was named acting chief, said Thursday in a statement.

Morales joined the police department in 1993, was appointed chief in February 2018 and was reappointed to a four-year term in December 2019, NBC News reported.

The Fire and Police Commission is made up of seven civilian commissioners and an executive director appointed by Milwaukee’s mayor, according to its website. It oversees all fire and police department operations.

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