MADISON -- Milwaukee police officers are asking state lawmakers to shake up the city's Fire and Police Commission, arguing the current commissioners do the bidding of Mayor Tom Barrett and aren't fair to officers.
The FPC, which is currently in the middle of choosing a police chief to replace the retiring Ed Flynn, would be dramatically reshaped under legislation from two Republicans, state Sen. Van Wanggaard and state Rep. Janel Brandtjen. Barrett is opposed to the proposal.
"I'm here because our officers have not been treated fairly," said Michael Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association. "The board desperately needs law enforcement and firefighter knowledge and expertise."
A three-hour debate in the Senate Economic Development committee brought out old scars over police-community relations in Milwaukee, cops who did wrong, and Barrett's handling of police issues.
The legislation would force the city to keep paying officers who are under disciplinary review. The pay would stop if the Fire and Police Commission decided to fire the officer.
Barrett says the change would cost the city $1 million a year, leading legislative Democrats from Milwaukee to refer to the legislation as the "bad cop payout bill."
"I'll be damned if we're gonna go back to where the City of Milwaukee goes back to paying out millions of dollars to pay for people like that," said State Senator Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee.
Crivello called the city's $1 million cost estimate "ludicrous."
The bill gives more power to the police and fire unions. It requires that at least one former police officer and one former firefighter sit on the commission. The mayor would have to choose people from a list provided by the unions.
Republicans say Barrett has too much power over the current commission because he can appoint anyone as long as that person can win approval from the Common Council.
"I don't think the mayor wants this (change) because I don't think the mayor wants to lose control over his political influence over the commission. Period," said Wanggaard, R-Racine.
Wanggaard said he and Barrett met for more than an hour recently about the legislation. Barrett didn't attend Wednesday's hearing.
While the police union supports the bill, a spokeswoman for the city made clear the police department does not.
"The City of Milwaukee and all of its departments are opposed to this bill," said LaKeisha Butler, the spokeswoman.
Wanggaard's office said an Assembly committee may hold a vote on the legislation next week. Spokespeople for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos didn't respond to a request for comment about whether they would bring the bill up for a vote in their respective chambers by the end of this year's session.