We Need to Talk

The following is an excellent op-ed by Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales. It’s what every chief of police should be saying and enabling. Worth a read!

Milwaukee Chief of Police Alfonso Morales

“My name is Alfonso Morales. Most people call me Al. I was born and raised in Milwaukee. I am a proud second generation Mexican-American. I have a beautiful wife and two amazing children. I am proud to be your chief of police. Our officers are also members of the community, have families, care about police-community relations and, like everyone else, want to go home safely to their loved ones at the end of their shift.

“I have heard the outcries of racial injustice. Generational wounds of oppression, racism and disenfranchisement have been reopened by examples of totally unacceptable and completely illegal police brutality. These are real emotions and reactions that cannot be understated.

“The byproduct of the past few weeks is great division and further discord. It has turned into an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality. That must change. We are in this together. It must simply be… Us.

“I, too, am disgusted and outraged by the actions of those Minneapolis police officers. And I, too, demand improvements to law enforcement, including MPD. But that does not mean you cannot also support your local law enforcement agency and the men and women in blue who risk their lives every day to keep your community safer. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

“We must have real discussions of what ‘defunding the police’ means. If it means abandoning the concept of law enforcement, that is a nonstarter. If that means conducting a laser-focused, deep dive into the responsibilities of policing and the consequences of reallocating resources, count me in.

“Police cannot and should not be the first responder for all social ills. Being a Milwaukee Police Department officer in 2020 means being a part-time therapist, drug addiction counselor, landlord-tenant arbitrator, homelessness advocate, private security guard, traffic controller, parking attendant, family counselor and animal control officer. We need to admit that we are all open to change.

“This means we need to have conversations — real conversations. Not arguments. Not insults. Not hyperbolic rhetoric. And we need to have those conversations result in thoughtful and impactful actions. We cannot merely strip away responsibilities from the police without a comprehensive plan for who can and will address the issues. These social issues will not disappear because they are taken off the police call sheet. Those organizations must be funded, staffed and prepared to embark on this new vision as partners.

“We also need to know what defunding MPD looks like. Our Common Council has suggested a 10% cut. It’s approximately $30 million, which would roughly equate to up to 375 officers in addition to the 60 officers cut last year. That would be a 25% reduction in police officers in Milwaukee in just two years.

“How would that defunding occur? And what does it mean to reinvest into ‘social services?’  Exactly which social services? Currently, the Milwaukee Police Department responds to more than 700 calls a day. Will that organization respond to a call at 2 a.m.? How about on a weekend?

“If implemented for the 2021 budget, will there be a comprehensive plan by Jan. 1, 2021? The calls will be coming. Who will be there to respond?

Let us have a conversation.

“I understand budget cuts and I understand investing in our community. However, I do not understand how defunding improves the underlying issues of social injustices and police brutality or increases diversity in MPD.

“Let me be clear: I do not take pleasure in reducing any of our services. And I do not suggest these changes lightly. But Milwaukee, you deserve an honest conversation to understand the real repercussions of defunding so I want you to know what that might look like:

[The Chief outlined a number of services that the department could no longer provide under the cuts proposed by the city council. Read the full article HERE.]

Despite these difficult times, I have never been more proud to be your police chief, a minority and a lifelong Milwaukeean. Most importantly, I am proud of this city and the future we can shape together.

“The Milwaukee Police Department is listening. I am listening. Please share your thoughts through a new email I created to hear from you: TalktoMPD@Milwaukee.gov.

“Join us in the discussion.”