October 24, 2014

Eighteen community organizations signed the following letter to Mayor Tom Barrett; Alderman Michael Murphy, Common Council President; Alderman Terry Witkowski, Chair, Public Safety Committee; and Sarah Morgan, Chair of the Fire and Police Commission Board about the upcoming replacement of the Executive Director of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.


Dear Mayor Barrett,

Soon you will be appointing a replacement for Michael Tobin as Executive Director of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (FPC).  This important position has the potential to help the Board to better serve our City.  We hope that you submit the name of a highly qualified person to the Common Council in the near future.  This person should above all have a commitment to respectful, constitutional policing.

The ACLU of Wisconsin (as a matter of policy) neither endorses nor opposes candidates for appointive or elective office.

However, we do have ideas about criteria for selecting a new Executive Director for the Milwaukee Fire & Police Commission.   We urge you to exercise the authority you have to make sure that the candidates are capable of carrying out and overseeing the several functions given to the Commission by state statute and city ordinance. 

A highly qualified candidate should meet the following criteria at a minimum.  He or she should:

1) Have law enforcement experience with a police department similar to the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), but not solely MPD, and preferably not in Wisconsin.

2) Have a law degree.

3) Have experience in analyzing, developing, and evaluating police and fire department policies and practices, including being knowledgeable about current issues and trends in policing.

4) Have the ability to advise the Commissioners, Mayor, and Council on ways to improve the FPC’s oversight and independent auditing functions.

5) Have the ability to communicate with officers and residents to explain the functions of the FPC in order to establish trust with both.

6) Be innovative and find ways to increase diversity among members of the fire and police departments.

7) Have a clear understanding of technology in law enforcement and its adoption, including early warning systems to identify potential problem officers.

8) Have a strong commitment to eliminating racial profiling and other forms of bias in the departments to the extent that they exist.

Given the seriousness and complexity of these issues, you must not only devote time and consideration to interviewing the candidates, but also ensure that the hiring process will be transparent.  

Thank you for your cooperation on behalf of the ACLU, and our partners, the following undersigned community leaders and organizational representatives:


Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin

Rick Banks, Queer People of Color at UW-Milwaukee

Bruce Colburn, SEIU

Martha De La Rosa, 9 to 5

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Wisconsin Jobs Now

James Hall, NAACP Milwaukee Branch

Art Heitzer, National Lawyer’s Guild Milwaukee

George Martin, MLK Justice Coalition

Shanyeill McCloud, Clean Slate

R.L. McNeely, Felmers Chaney Correctional Center Advisory Board

Francisca Meraz, YES

Reggie Moore, Center for Youth Engagement

Sharlen Moore, Urban Underground

Sarah Noble, Reproductive Justice Coalition

Christine Neuman-Ortiz, Voces De La Frontera

Solana Patterson-Ramos, ACLU UW-Milwaukee Student Alliance

Amanda Smith, NAACP at Marquette University

Lavelle Young, The Black Student Union at UW-Milwaukee

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