Milwaukee Police Chief Holds on to Job
A small group of counter-protesters gathered outside Milwaukee City Hall on Monday in support of Police Chief Alfonso Morales, who was at risk of being fired. (Photo by Samer Ghani)

Embattled chief is instead given directives to follow.

As Khalil Coleman spoke Monday evening outside Milwaukee’s City Hall, his frustration was palpable.

He tried to pump up the crowd of about 200 protesters who were calling on the city’s Police and Fire Commission to fire Police Chief Alfonso Morales, but he conceded that activists calling for the chief’s removal were handed a loss.

The commission did not fire Morales during Monday’s closely watched meeting, but did issue a list of directives he must follow or else face discipline or firing. Those directives include, according to WITI: releasing video and reports on open cases, including officer-involved shootings; publishing a report on the use of tear gas on protesters last month; and getting approval from the Fire and Police Commission for overtime and promotions.

Still, Coleman was not happy.

“That’s so soft,” Coleman told the crowd. “Y’all, we gotta come back.”

Groups such as Coleman’s People’s Revolution and immigrant and worker advocacy group Voces de la Frontera called for Morales’ firing ahead of the meeting. Seven of Milwaukee’s 15 aldermen also issued a statement Monday calling for his removal. Two lawmakers from Milwaukee also called for the chief to be fired. 

WDJT reported Friday that there was “a decent chance” Morales would be fired Monday after two years on the job. 

“Chief Morales, through his actions and words, has disrespected the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest movement and the demands of immigrants and their advocates,” the seven Milwaukee aldermen said in a joint statement. The statement concluded, “We have no confidence in Chief Morales and it’s time for him to go.”

Morales has come under fire recently for his department’s use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters, failure to build relationships with Milwaukee’s communities of color, compliance with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents, and his decision to suspend but not fire a Milwaukee police officer charged with the first-degree reckless homicide of Joel Acevedo in April. In June, he compared police to Jesus Christ and said law enforcement officers were being “crucified” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis officer. 

And just this month, an off-duty officer attacked two photographers at a protest organized by The People’s Revolution. The officer, Matthew Willmann, had not been disciplined, suspended, or fired as of last week, and officers on the scene who allegedly tried to cover the incident up were also not disciplined.

Protesters calling on Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales to be fired march toward City Hall before a Monday Fire and Police Commission meeting. Morales was not fired, but the commission gave him a list of 11 directives to follow, or else he will face discipline or firing. (Photo by Samer Ghani)

“This is why we say it’s systemic,” said Charley Frazier, 29, of West Allis, a regular protester with The People’s Revolution.

Isaiah Sharp, 17, of Milwaukee said he had previously considered a career in law enforcement but changed his mind after he saw Morales’ handling of the Joel Acevedo case. Off-duty officer Michael Mattioli killed Acevedo by holding him in a chokehold after a fight at the officer’s home in April. Morales could have fired him, but placed him on suspension instead. The Fire and Police Commission formally disciplined Mattioli this month.

“Fire him,” Sharp said. “Fire everybody that’s killed someone.”

Angry protesters pounded against the doors to City Hall before the commission meeting, demanding they be let inside. Media was let in to cover the meeting, but the building was closed to the general public. A small group of counter-protesters formed but remained mostly silent as the group calling for Morales’ firing performed chants, sang, and listened to speeches.

Earlier in the day, the Milwaukee Police Association, along with disgraced former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, preempted the protests by holding a press conference in support of Morales. They called instead for the removal of the head of the Fire and Police Commission.

Reps. David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff, both Milwaukee Democrats, joined protesters Monday. They spoke of the need for revolutionary change to the Milwaukee Police Department, starting with the firing of Morales.

“What we’re talking about right now is a police department that can be accountable not just to white people, but to Black people, to brown people,” Bowen said.

Brostoff said Morales was complicit with the department being unaccountable.

Another speaker was Jose Acevedo, the father of Joel Acevedo. He said it was unacceptable that Officer Michael Mattioli, who killed Joel, has not been fired.

“It’s time for a change,” Jose Acevedo said. “It’s time for a new beginning without Morales.”