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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Milwaukee's search for a new Police Chief

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an interesting column about Milwaukee's search for a new police chief.

JS Online: Search for next chief is wide open

This column brought more questions and comments to my mind than it answered.

There are the up-and-comers working in bigger departments such as New York. There are chiefs in smaller cities looking to move up. And there's coaching staff - looking inside Milwaukee's ranks for the next chief.

Milwaukee typically has taken the final option.

The fact that, except for Phil Arreola, all past chiefs in modern history have come from inside of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is not reason to do so again. In fact, I would argue that this is the reason to look outside of the department. Can anyone name a chief from the past 20 years that has really been successful in reducing violent crime in Milwaukee?

The definition of insanity, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, it is time to end the cycle of keeping this position in-house. I believe that the MPD is broken, not at the cop on the street level, but in it's command and control level. It is time that this changes.

Mayor Tom Barrett says that he will be personally engaged in the search for a new chief, well, he sure better be, this will be the defining moment of his first term. We have seen violence in Milwaukee grow while the mayor tried to downplay the crisis on our streets. He may disagree with this comment, but it is what the people living in this city believe!

As in a number of American cities, violent crime has increased in Milwaukee recently. Also, there has been a rash of misconduct among officers here. Those factors likely won't deter applicants, according to experts in police chief searches, who suggest there will be no shortage of interest in Milwaukee.

Again, I believe that this points to why we need someone from the outside to oversee this department right now. Someone that can clean house at the upper levels of the MPD and someone with a plan that has been proven to work. It would be a disaster to this city if the Mayor and Fire & Police Commission settled on someone that would perpetuate the status quo. Do I have confidence that they will do this? Just listen to this quote from Woody Welsh.

Commissioner Robert "Woody" Welch said he hasn't decided what kind of search to do, but he knows what he'll be looking for in the next chief: someone very much like Hegerty, whom he described as a strong manager and careful listener.

"The ability she has to work with people, that is my criteria for the next chief: Can you work with people?" Welch said.

I would like to invite Woody to spend some time in the inner city of Milwaukee and explain to the people living here what Nan Hegerty has done to make their neighborhoods safer. The current policies are not working, hell, what is Nan's plan? I have never heard her express a compressive plan to make Milwaukee safer. All I have heard from her in the past year is that the police can't change things alone, and her plan to have police actually stop responding to non emergency calls, in other words, we won't come until someone starts shooting, until then, we can't be bothered...

Another reason to have little confidence in the Fire & Police Commission is the fact that after 9 months of searching for the next Fire Chief, they still haven't even interviewed the the finalists for the job! So instead of doing what many pundits have thought, and moving Hegerty out before the end of her term in November, we may actually not even have a new chief lined up by then.

The past three chiefs have all been "firsts" for the city.

Arreola was the city's first Hispanic chief. Jones was the first permanent African-American chief. Hegerty was the first female chief, one of only a handful of female big-city chiefs nationwide.

This should not even be a consideration! We need someone that can do the job, not some social experiment. I don't care what the race or gender of the new chief is, I want a strong leader with a proven plan to fight violence and crime in Milwaukee.

Another leader at the city governmental level is Alderman Bob Donovan, he is the chairman of the Common Council's Public Safety Committee and has been critical of Barrett and Hegerty in the past. But he too seems to be limiting the search to someone inside of the MPD. I ask, why limit yourself to someone inside of a failed system? Donovan says:

"It's one thing to be an effective captain, to be an effective detective," Donovan said. "It's a whole other ball game when you're the chief. It's lonely at the top. You need the ability and stamina to take that. You need to be a tough individual."

So why limit the search to what is already in place? If there was a strong leader among the crowd that is already there, who is it? It seems to me that the people willing to do what needed to be done, like a Captain Glenn Frankovis, were moved out of command just for calling the thugs what they are... Thugs. Do you think anyone else in the current administration is willing to change what is happening now? I don't, if they disagreed with current policies, why have they been silent while over 700 people were shot last year, with over 100 of them killed? That isn't the kind of leader I want.

D.P. Van Blaricom, former police chief in Bellevue, Wash., and a consultant for the past 20 years, said that since chiefs have traditionally come from within the department, the trend will likely continue.

If Milwaukee looks outside, he said, candidates would likely be "a rising star in some other department (who) sees no way to the top of his particular organization, or a chief of a smaller department (who) wants to trade up because he wants a bigger boat."

I fear that he is right, and the trend to keep hiring from within will continue, but my suggestion would be along the lines of Van Blaricom's second point. We need the 'rising star' or as I suggested yesterday, the second in command of one of the really successful agencies. Talk to LAPD Chief William Bratton and ask who he would least like to lose, then hire him. Or talk to Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Commissioner. I know he has his warts, but the man did a hell of a good job in cleaning up NYC with Rudy Giuliani. We need to look outside of the box of the MPD!

Common Council President Willie Hines says:

[H]e hoped internal candidates would be looked at first, which could spare the expense of a national search. He cited other national searches in which ultimately a local candidate was chosen.

I am amazed at the things people like Hines are willing to cut costs on. Making the expenditure now, and getting the right person for the job will cut crime and violence in Milwaukee, that in the long run will save the taxpayers a lot more than will a few airline tickets to meet with the best people available, where ever they are. Again, we have another elected official that wants to limit the most important job search we have available, to the current staff of the MPD. If the current people were getting the job done, we wouldn't be having this debate.

Milwaukee deserves the best, we have suffered from the violence and crime in our streets for to long, it is time that we, the good and law abiding people of Milwaukee take back the city that we love.