Milwaukee, WI – Attorneys for the city of Milwaukee admitted last week that former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales didn’t get due process before he was demoted in August over his controversial handling of riots.
“The City respectfully requests this Court remand the matter of Morales’s August 6, 2020 demotion to the Board for further proceedings to ensure Morales receives a full hearing consistent with the basic concepts of due process and fair play and statutory prescriptions alike,” Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer wrote in a brief filed on Nov. 16, according to WISN.
Spencer’s request was the city’s first public response to the lawsuit filed by former Chief Morales since the Fire and Police Commission (FPC) summarily fired him.
The lawsuit filed by the former chief alleged breach of contract, denial of due process, loss of reputation in the community, and future career opportunities, WISN reported.
Former Chief Morales, who was chief of the Milwaukee Police Department for three-and-a-half years, had been at odds with the FPC since the commission chair demanded that he fire the officer who arrested Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown in 2018, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
The city recently settled with Brown for $750,000 dollars.
In August, FPC commissioners took exception to the Milwaukee Police Department’s use of teargas to disperse rioters.
At the same time, the commissioners began asking questions about allegations of racism in the policing of the city’s black communities, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“His conduct is unbecoming, filled with ethical lapses and flawed decisions, making it inconsistent with someone who has the privilege of leading the Milwaukee Police Department,” FPC Commissioner Raymond Robakowski said.
The commissioners named Milwaukee Assistant Police Chief Michael J. Brunson Sr. to step in as acting chief, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
The move by the FPC came as the city was struggling with how to provide security for the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
More than 100 Wisconsin police departments had pulled out of agreements to help provide security for the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee after the FPC ordered then-Chief Morales to discontinue the use of tear gas and pepper spray for crowd control, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Convention host cities typically recruit assistance for the massive event from other law enforcement agencies in their state, and the upcoming convention in Milwaukee was no different.
But in light of the prohibition on traditional less-lethal crowd control measures, numerous police departments no longer wanted anything to do with the event scheduled for the week of Aug. 17, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Now-former Chief Morales said more than 100 law enforcement agencies had backed out of agreements to assist with Democratic National Convention security since the FPC’s edict.
On Aug. 6, the FPC voted unanimously to demote the police chief back to captain after it issued a series of directives for then-Chief Morales to follow along with an ultimatum, WISN reported.
Chief Morales filed his retirement paperwork on Aug. 8, effective immediately.
Attorneys for the former police chief notified the city and the FPC of their intent to sue on Aug. 20, WISN reported.
.@mkeclerk confirms @cityofmilwaukee has received the documents and have been forwarded to City Attorney. I'm told the legal team for Morales has had trouble finding someone from @FPCMKE to serve documents. @WISN12News pic.twitter.com/GWY5zgXtIU
— Derrick Rose (@DRoseTV) August 20, 2020
“As of this date, despite repeated requests, Morales has not received a copy of any final, written findings or order encapsulating the Board’s decision to demote him and does not know if any such document exists,” attorney Frank Gimbel wrote to the city attorney and FPC Executive Director Griselda Aldrete.
The lawsuit is seeking $125,000 for breach of contract for the difference between his salary as chief and as a captain, $250,000 for breach of due process including attorney’s fees, and $250,000 for damage done to his reputation and future career opportunities for a total of $625,000, WISN reported.
If the court grants the city’s request to send the former police chief’s case back to the board for a full hearing prior to the lawsuit moving forward, it is unclear how the selection process for a new Milwaukee police chief would be impacted.
BREAKING — 2.5 weeks before expected hiring of new @milwaukeepolice Chief, City Attorney admits former chief Morales did not receive due process in demotion, requests court send case to @FPCMKE for full hearing. @WISN12News pic.twitter.com/l4layv23Rt
— Derrick Rose (@DRoseTV) November 16, 2020
The FPC was scheduled to choose from three finalists who participated in a public forum in November by Dec. 3, when Acting Chief Brunson planned to retire, WISN reported.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that several key members of the FPC who had been extremely critical of then-Chief Morales, including Robakowski and Aldrete, are no longer members of the agency.