There is a “constant agenda that law enforcement is racist. It’s not.” This false narrative is making it harder to recruit people of color into law enforcement. – Chief Alfonso Morales
Former (or current depending on your interpretation) Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales denounced claims that police are racist, saying that, instead of blaming the police, society should focus on the root causes of crime, including the breakdown of the family structure.
Morales said there is a “constant agenda that law enforcement is racist. It’s not.” This false narrative is making it harder to recruit people of color into law enforcement, he said.
Chief Alfonso Morales said there is racism in America, of course, but “you can paint that picture in any profession. Let’s not vilify and put all of the world’s problems on law enforcement.” He noted that 14 of Milwaukee’s 192 neighborhoods account for 46% of its gun violence, and he said those neighborhoods are also challenged economically and experiencing “breakdown in families.” He thinks the only strategy for fixing those things can’t be “putting more cops there.” Rather, the focus should be on fixing issues like the economy and education.
The chief said that police have been reforming themselves “for decades.” However, Milwaukee has been “defunding the MPD for the last 15 years yet we still have the same calls for services,” Morales said. He mentioned mental health calls. “Quit blaming the police department for these things.” [In a past story, we revealed the city has systematically reduced the number of Milwaukee officers on the streets by 18% since 1995.]
Chief Alfonso Morales spoke in New Berlin on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at a “Backing the Badge & Building Bridges” Town Hall. The event was sponsored by No Better Friend, Corp., a non-profit founded by former Republican Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, a Delafield businessman who served in combat in the U.S. Marines. The group focuses on “promoting conservative ideas and approaches in the areas of economic growth, education, health care, promoting a culture of life, and national defense,” according to its website.
Other speakers also defended law enforcement.
Former Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan
“We need to stand up for our cops and law enforcement,” said former Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan. He added, “What the hell is going on in Milwaukee?… The world’s turned upside down. There is a war on cops.”
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval
Former Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said people need to help change the negative media narratives by “extolling the virtues of what it means to be a true guardian” as law enforcement in communities or it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He said law enforcement is a vocation and calling and this needs to be remembered. He said Madison police used to get 1,000 applicants for recruit classes but that’s plummeted to fewer than 300. “We need to do something radically different to reinvigorate the nobility of what it means to serve,” he said.
Judging from the standing ovation Morales received at the event of conservative faithful, the chief would have a warm reception if he ever decided to seek another position in the public eye, at least as a Republican or independent. However, he didn’t allude to any future aspirations, nor did he take questions on his way out, where he was approached by numerous supporters eager to shake his hand.
A judge previously overturned the Fire and Police Commission’s demotion of Morales as Milwaukee police chief, decrying the lack of due process he received. The chief’s speech was a rare foray back into the public eye since that decision. He didn’t refer to the litigation, although he did call the past year “very hectic, very crazy.” He urged people to “keep the faith” and approach life with “courage.”
Morales noted that there were 78 fatal car accidents in Milwaukee in 2020, saying “reckless driving” is a major problem. The chief wasn’t thrilled with talk of marijuana legalization, saying, “Why push something that will cause more problems?” He warned that crime in big cities is a problem for all, saying, “If it bleeds in major cities, it will bleed into your community.”
He said it’s time to “stop pointing fingers at and villainizing law enforcement. We’re the ones doing the reform.” He said that it’s important that police don’t only implement training that “political figures want law enforcement to do. Let the experts in training come up with the right training, not the politicians.”
He said society needs to realize that crime and mental health issues are not only “a police problem.” He said there was a “big push to arrest and cite all of the little things” dating back to the Broken Windows theory of law enforcement starting in the 1980s, which put an emphasis on the police as a way of mitigating crime but “everyone went to jail and now you hear people talking about the overcrowding of jails.”
Law enforcement, he said, “takes the brunt of all of society’s problems.” He referred to a recent police shooting case in Wauwatosa where a woman was allegedly beating a citizen with a wooden stick when police were called. He said the media narrative focused on “why officers” shot a person with mental health issues, but he said the media “don’t tell you the person just left a mental health facility” where she allegedly attacked others. “Would you think this person was a threat to society?” he said. Yet, when police acted, they became the focus of criticism.
He also criticized the media’s coverage of chokeholds, saying, “We don’t train chokeholds. Never have.”
“Things are broken in different areas of the system,” Morales said, mentioning prosecutors who are overwhelmed with their caseloads and make low salaries so they’re rushing through cases and a child welfare system with problems. Yet, he said, people prefer to vilify the police instead of dealing with those things.
He also made an amiable joke about former Ald. Bob Donovan, who spoke before Morales at the event. “He stole some of my things,” joked Morales of Donovan’s speech talking points. “I have the man in arena on my phone.” That was a famous Teddy Roosevelt quote that Donovan read:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Morales noted that he “grew up in a bad area” in the City of Milwaukee when it came to crime. “I lived it and I worked it.” He said gangs remain a serious problem.
“Have the courage to do what’s right,” said Morales, concluding: “God bless you.”
Other speakers also defended law enforcement.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard
State Sen. Van Wanggaard said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes says that “self-defense as an exception to chokeholds is meaningless.” He said that Barnes “needs to fight for his life sometime,” if he wants to understand self-defense, adding that as a former Racine police officer, he had done so many times.
Fond du Lac County DA Eric Toney, who is running for AG as a Republican, said Gov. Tony Evers’ statement after the Jacob Blake shooting was “offensive” because Toney interpreted it as the governor doubling down and saying that “officers should be prosecuted for political reasons.” He also said that Milwaukee crime drives crime trends upward throughout the state, and Fond du Lac is seeing “Milwaukee level crime.”
Ryan Owens, a law professor who is running for Attorney General as a Republican, said law enforcement officers throughout the state are “scared about where qualified immunity is headed.” He said officers would be held personally liable, and people won’t want to enter the profession or taxpayers will have to fund skyrocketing insurance premiums. “Qualified immunity is a way to defund and get rid of police.. we have to fight it with every ounce. We’ve got to fight it hard, and we’ve got to fight it hard.”
He said we have “historic retirements the likes we’ve never seen” in law enforcement. “We aren’t replacing them. That’s a public safety threat.” He said the world “has turned upside down.”
“How many people live in the City of Milwaukee?” asked Milwaukee Police Association President Dale Bormann Jr. When a few people raised their hands, he said, “I am sorry.” He said that last night, in the span of one hour, three people died from homicide in the city. Then a child died in a house fire and two more people died in a car crash. Crime is up more than 30% but the aldermen won’t fund more officer positions, not even filling positions left vacant by retirements. He said the city has a disastrously large looming pension obligation because “the city went 15 years without paying into the pension.”