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Milwaukee Aldermen: Morales Lawyer Racist for Saying FPC Members Should Be Selected For IQ Over Zip Code

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“Perhaps using Zip Codes to appoint people to that commission rather than IQs may contribute to the kind of faltering steps that they’ve taken in recent years.” -Frank Gimbel

Eleven members of the Milwaukee Common Council are accusing long-time lawyer and Democrat Frank Gimbel, who is representing Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales,  of making “racist remarks” about the Fire and Police Commission.

So which comments upset the Council members?

Frank Gimbel referred to former Chief Harold Breier as an “old-fashioned law and order guy.” He also said of the Fire and Police Commission, “Perhaps using Zip Codes to appoint people to that commission rather than IQs may contribute to the kind of faltering steps that they’ve taken in recent years.”

The Council members strained to point out that “none of the six members of Milwaukee’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners are white. In Attorney Gimbel’s day, most were.” Thus, they alleged, they believe that the attorney used zip code as a euphemism for race.

“If Mr. Gimbel meant something else when he divided people by ‘Zip Code’ other than their race, we encourage him to share it. We can’t think of what that might be,” they wrote in a press release.

The Commission botched the demotion of Morales, according to a judge.

The news release referred to Morales as the city’s “former” chief, even though a judge reversed Morales’s demotion from chief to captain. The chief retired after the demotion, but it’s not clear whether he’s going to seek a settlement or to stay on as chief. There is also an acting chief in the department, Jeffrey Norman.

The aldermen and alderwomen who signed the release are Ashanti Hamilton, Cavalier Johnson, Nik Kovac, Nikiya Dodd, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, Alderman Mark A. Borkowski, Alderman Jóse G. Pérez and Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II.

The aldermen said Frank Gimbel met with the City Attorney’s Office on Monday “to demand a golden parachute” for Morales. They accused Gimbel of making “profoundly disturbing” comments about policing in Milwaukee. Gimbel appeared in a morning news segment of WTMJ radio.

“Well, you may or may not know,” Gimbel told Gene Mueller, “but I served on the Fire and Police Commission in 1977 through 1982, and that was when we had a Police Chief by the name of Harold Breier. He was an old-fashioned law and order guy if ever there was one.”

The Council Members claimed that Breier once told the New York Times, “’We have bused crime all over the city,” and said the South Side “now has black crime.’” The Council also builds its case by quoting former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane who called Breier “a racist administrator, a borderline fascist, and the man who contributed to the segregated reputation of Milwaukee more than any other.”

Gimbel also stated, “During the period of time that I served on that commission, all of the members of the commission had graduate college degrees or were high officials in labor organizations. There were two lawyers on the panel.”

This upset the Council Members, who claimed there are two lawyers on the current FPC. Others are board members of a technical college, Chamber of Commerce, community groups, and a member of a firefighters union.

“Our defense of the civilian members of the Board of Fire and Police Commission against racist attacks should not imply that we agree with every decision they have made in the last 12 months,” said the Council members. They said they wished the FPC in 1977-82 had fired Breier, saying the “Common Council passed a resolution condemning then Chief Breier for his racist remarks.”

In response, Gimbel told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his reference to ZIP codes rather than IQs was “probably not very well articulated.” He continued, “My record on being a person who’s sought to diminish and to eliminate racism in government is long-standing from the time when I was a young lawyer. … I’m very, very resentful that they would suggest that I am racist.”