New boss, old boss, etc.
At a meeting of the Fire & Police Commission Thursday night, the commission voted unanimously to demote Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales to the role of captain. The commission was critical of Morales’ order to fire tear gas at peaceful protestors back in June, among other things. (In July, the commission gave the chief 11 directives that included “amending the proper SOP(s) to discontinue the use of chemicals” like “tear gas and large volumes of oleoresin capsicum spray.”)
“His conduct is unbecoming, filled with ethical lapses and flawed decisions,” Commissioner Raymond Robakowski said during Thursday’s meeting. “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. None of this is acceptable.”
In Morales’ place, the commission voted unanimously to replace him with Michael Brunson. The new acting chief (and former assistant chief) is also a big fan of tear gas.
Here’s what Brunson had to say about the matter during a June 5 meeting of the Public Safety and Health Committee. Spoiler: police shooting you with tear gas is better than them beating and killing you.
So now I want to talk a little bit about the Major Incident Response Team […] to give you a little bit of history on why the Major Incident Response Team was created, not only in Milwaukee, but around the country. If any of you are students of history, and some of you might have been around during that period of time in the ’60s, when you saw incidents of civil disorder throughout the country. You will know, and this city itself experienced that in 1967. Go back and look at some of the situations and the death toll from those riots that occurred in our country during the ’60s and the ’70s, and you will see double-digit deaths of citizens during those incidents. In our city alone, in 1967, there were four people killed, there were 100 that were injured, and there were 1,740 arrests during that period of time. In Watts, California, 1965, 34 killed. Why? Why such a high body count during that period of time?
Well, I’ll tell you why. Because law enforcement options at those times were a handgun and a billy club. There was no coordinated effort to preserve life during those incidents. The MIRT unit was created to use the minimal amount of force to get the situation under control. Everybody’s talking about less-lethal munitions and smoke and tear gas. Those tools are meant to preserve life. I will say our MIRT unit has been in existence for 15 years. No citizen has sustained any significant injury or been killed by a MIRT unit during deployments. That’s why those units were created.
If we’re talking about the abuse of less-lethal munitions and tear gas, then that’s something that we can have a discussion about. But overall, saying that these […] need to be removed, be careful when you say that. Do you want to go back to the time when officers had an option of a handgun and a billy club […] and that is it? I think that is misguided.
Here’s the full video of Brunson’s remarks, followed by that Who song: