The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, along with 11 other community organizations and leaders, have asked for greater public input and transparency in the confirmation process for nominees to the Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. We believe that regardless of the nominee, the FPC will be better able to carry out its important oversight and auditing functions if the nomination process enhances public confidence in the Commission. The text of the letter sent to the Common Council's President and Public Safety Committee Chair is below.
March 10, 2015
Ald. Terry Witkowski, Chair Ald. Michael Murphy
Public Safety Committee President
Common Council Common Council
City Hall, Room 205 City Hall, Room 205
200 East Wells Street 200 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202 Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear President Murphy and Alderman Witkowski,
Mayor Barrett has nominated the Rev. Fred L. Crouther to fill a vacancy on the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. The Common Council’s Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider Pastor Crouther’s nomination at its March 19, 2015 meeting. Depending on the action of the committee, the nomination apparently could come before the Council at the end of March.
We urge you and your colleagues to consider this nomination with due deliberation given the important role of the Board at this time in our city’s history. The Board needs to exercise its oversight function in an informed and judicious manner to help improve police community relations following too many incidents of police misconduct and controversial practices in recent years.
We commend Mayor Barrett for nominating a candidate to fill this vacancy so that the Board can have another member as soon as possible. We urge him to exercise his authority to nominate two additional commissioners as allowed by state statute. The Board needs to have as much strength as possible to carry out its important role.
Pastor Crouther has a long and impressive record of service to Milwaukee. The public, just like council members, should have an opportunity to review the functions and needs of the Board in order to determine what Pastor Crouther will bring to the Board.
On March 3 there was a listening session for Pastor Crouther, which does not appear to have been well publicized. On March 16 there appears to be another listening session, hosted by Alderman Perez, which has received limited public notice. While these sessions are commendable they do not match the level of input and openness established with the confirmation process for Commissioner Wilson.
Greater transparency in the confirmation process will increase the public’s confidence in the Board. Therefore, we urge you to allow public testimony regarding the needs of the Board at the March 19, 2015 hearing. Alternatively, we urge you to hold another public hearing on the nomination in the Council Chambers before the committee meets if possible and definitely before the Council meets.
Regardless of the candidate we believe that an open process will benefit the Board. The Fire and Police Commission has several important issues and questions to address:
- What needs to be done to address issues of police misconduct and discriminatory harassment?
- Should the Commission have additional staff to carry out audits of MPD systems and policies and report directly to the Board and Common Council?
- What needs to be done now to make sure that the diversity of members of both the Fire and Police departments reflect our community to the greatest extent possible?
- Does the MPD’s practice of making 240,000 traffic and pedestrian stops a year, with or without cause, comport with community orienting policing best practices?
Given the seriousness and complexity of these issues, you and your colleagues must not only devote consideration time to interviewing the candidates, but the public must be involved in a transparent process. Please notify us when you have scheduled public hearings at which the public will be allowed to testify.
Thank you for your cooperation on behalf of the undersigned community leaders and organizational representatives:
American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, Chris Ahmuty
All People's Church, Rev. Steve Jerbi
FORGE, michael munson
MICAH, Sr. Rose Steitz
Milwaukee Coalition for a Just Peace, George Martin
NAACP, Fred Royal
Reproductive Justice Collective, Sarah Noble
The Coalition for Justice, Nate Hamilton
True Skool, Sarah Dollhausen
Urban Underground, Sharlen Moore
Voces De La Frontera
YES! (Youth Empowered in the Struggle), Sean Orr
Wisconsin Jobs Now, Jennifer Epps-Addison