MILWAUKEE -- The process of selecting the next chief of the Milwaukee Police Department has began Thursday afternoon at City Hall. The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission held a meeting that quickly went into closed session to discuss the process the FPC will use to appoint an acting chief. Chief Ed Flynn announced on Jan. 8 he is retiring, effective Feb. 16.
While it's clear change is coming downtown at police headquarters, change is also apparent at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and North Avenue. There's a new grocery store and new apartments going up a block down the street.
Johnny Nuell, who has lived in Milwaukee nearly 40 years, said he wants a chief with a plan to improve public safety, first and foremost.
"I'm an elderly man, almost, and I'm scared to walk the streets sometimes at night, you know?" Nuell said, ""I'm not gonna say I've always been perfect, but today, I'm scared to walk the streets."
Nuell and others said improved communication will be necessary for police to help neighborhoods rebuild."Somebody that's well-educated in what they're applying for. Somebody that has the perspective other people have, most common people have," said Deanna Handley, who has lived in Milwaukee her whole life.
On Wednesday, Jan. 10, Michael Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association released a statement laying out the qualities the police union is looking for in a new chief:
“A police department must be lead by an experienced, respected police officer; not a career administrator. A chief does not need to be liked by those he leads, but must be respected – a respect earned of his/her actions. That chief must be believed by the community of which each individual household has entrusted their family’s safety/security to the righteous actions of the department – lead by an honorable chief.
A chief must be of open-mind. Engaged with the community, willing to understand and work with organizations and individuals; while at the same time, must possess the ability to articulate law and purpose over political pander.
A good chief must understand the importance of morale, know how to foster growth and encourage exemplary performance. The chief should display humility, dignity of character and confidence in personal performance and decision.
Flynn has been outspoken about what he considers to be shortcomings in the juvenile justice system as well as the state's gun laws. Crivello declined an interview Thursday.
Fire and Police Commission Chair Steven DeVougas said the FPC won't move "super fast" to appoint an acting chief but added one would be selected by Flynn's retirement date, February 16.
"Really, we’re looking for somebody who wants to work with the community and we’re gonna probably go with someone who want to build that consensus and work with stakeholders and, you know, really merge the work Chief Flynn started," DeVougas said.
DeVougas said the FPC would not naming the acting chief at Thursday's meeting but confirmed the acting chief will come from within MPD. He added the FPC has not decided whether the interim chief will serve through the end of Flynn's current term, which runs through January 2020.
For Nuell, the foundation of a successful replacement for Flynn, consists of two things:
"Loving and caring. Loving and caring about the people. I think that's what we need -- more loving and caring, because everybody ain't all bad. We ain't all bad and the police department ain't all bad, so we gotta have more loving and caring and understanding," said Nuell.
Flynn's retirement is effective Feb. 16th.
The FPC will first have to name an acting chief. The commission says that person will come from within MPD and must have a vision for 21st Century policing.
The interim job will be posted internally on Friday, January 12th -- but it's still unclear if that person will fulfill the two years left of Flynn's contract, or if they will only hold the seat until a permanent replacement is found.
"This is a very serious decision that they are going to be making. It's a department that has 3,000 employees. 1,800 sworn officers. A budget that is higher than the tax levy for the City of Milwaukee," said Mayor Barrett.
The FPC anticipates a nationwide search to permanently fill the role. They say the person chosen to be interim is also welcome to apply for the permanent job but details on that search are still forthcoming.