City and County officials applaud reversal decision by Fire and Police Commission

Compiled by Courier Staff

County Supervisor David Bowen, and Common Council president Willie Hines are speaking out applauding the Fire and Police Commission’s reversal on its decision from a 60-day suspension to terminating police officer Richard Schoen.

The Fire and Police Commission have finally recognized the efforts of a coalition of ordinary citizens and community organizations including Occupy the Hood, Urban Underground, ABE (All Black Everything) and County Supervisor Bowen who rose against police brutality at the Commission meeting last Thursday.

For the first time in its 127- year history, the Fire and Police Commission reversed a decision and has unanimously agreed to permanently terminate Police Officer Richard Schoen for the over use of force against Jeanine Tracy.

It is safe to say that if these groups of people did not stand up to demand change there would have been no justice and public safety would still be at-risk.

Bowen states that, this is further proof that we need all members of the Fire and Police Commission to be replaced with individuals who will vote in the interest of the community, public safety and the law, and not in favor of the pattern of corrupt officers who claim they are here to protect and serve. The coalition has expanded and now includes more organizations and citizens who are committed to demand better. There are many more reforms to the Commission that can be acted upon by city officials.

There should be a public vetting process to engage residents on the requirements and selection for potential Fire and Police Commissioners.

Further, instead of the mayor privately picking favorites, who don’t represent Milwaukee demographics, the Commission should reflect the near 22 percent of residents, ages 18 to 35, who make-up this community.

Supervisor Bowen also released the following statement:

“I have been criticized by other public officials for ‘dipping into city business,’ but to that I say any issue that impacts the public safety and well-being of my constituents is my business. It is my responsibility to stand when other public officials do not step up to make change with the power they have. I encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Alderman Nik Kovac, Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, and Alderman José G. Pérez released a joint statement agreeing with Supervisor Bowen’s position on public involvement on vetting for positions on the Fire and Police Commission. And the released a joint statement addressing the issue:

“We hear the community’s concerns about the membership of the Fire and Police Commission, and we are seeking greater inclusiveness and transparency in the selection of Commission members.

By state statute, the task of appointing members of the Commission rests with the Mayor, and each of those appointments is subject to confirmation by the Common Council. Currently, there are two vacancies on the seven-member Commission, and we are seeking a community vetting process for these appointments.

To be clear, we will not support any Commission candidate who does not go through a public vetting process.

Also, we are supporting possible changes to the current process that would allow the public to submit the names of potential Commission appointees. We have suggestions about how agencies/community partners could be involved as well.

We believe a more inclusive process is needed so that the Fire and Police Commission more closely mirrors our diverse community, and we are hopeful that we can see positive change that will move our city forward.”

Bowen also stated, “I am still addressing Milwaukee County issues with the Transit funding cliff. We need additional funding from the State or we will face cuts of up to 30 percent cuts in 2014. This jeopardizes the reforms that we are enacting in Corrections to decrease recidivism, the resources needed to assist our mental health and senior services and the many other issues that residents bring to my attention under various jurisdictions. I will continue to provide my best.”

“This is a win for the people of this community who want better, for the good police officers who are really here to protect and serve all residents with respect and dignity and for the young people who are willing to continue the fight for what is right and to challenge the public officials to represent us better. The days of failed leadership and protecting mediocrity are over, and the times of a promising future in Milwaukee are coming. To ensure this, we must be willing to demand it.”

Common Council president Willie Hines, Jr. also gave his overall view on the commissions reversal, and he hopes that it sends hope throughout the community: “I join citizens throughout the city today in celebrating the Fire and Police Commission’s choice to reverse course and terminate Officer Richard Schoen. The committee’s decision to reconsider its initial disciplinary finding, a 60-day suspension, is not only just, but it is the most appropriate thing to do. We all recognize the difficult job with which Milwaukee police officers are tasked.

The City of Milwaukee spends significant taxpayer resources on ensuring the department can deliver quality, professional services. When officers get it right, we must applaud them. When officers exercise the kind of brutal disregard for regulations and human well-being displayed by Officer Schoen, we must hold them accountable. This ensures the protection of our citizens’ most basic rights, as well as the ability of the rule-abiding, vast majority of police officers to ensure residents’ safety.

The Fire and Police Commission’s action today not only holds Officer Schoen accountable, but gives the community something to hope for. It’s my sincere hope that this is only the beginning of a bigger movement toward accountability and transparency in our Milwaukee Police Department.”