MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (FPC) announced on Thursday, Feb. 1 the names of the three finalists for the position of interim police chief for the Milwaukee Police Department.
The finalists are Assistant Chief James Harpole, Inspector Michael Brunson and Captain Alfonso Morales.
Each of the finalists were at City Hall Thursday afternoon for their interviews with members of the FPC. Each one was grilled for a little over an hour -- and one issue really rose to the top.
Whoever replaces retiring Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn on an interim basis will take the job with plenty of experience on the MPD force.
"Going great, going according to plan," said Steven DeVougas, Fire and Police Commission chairman.
Chairman Steven DeVougas explains each candidate is generally asked the same questions, but the format of the interviews is more of a dialogue.
FOX6's Bret Lemoine: "Would you say there's been one topic or question that has risen to the top -- so to speak -- in all of the interviews?"
DeVougas: "We've given them equal weight because, you know, the MPD is a very complex organization. There are a lot of moving parts."
The one question that kept popping up at a public forum the night before, is one of transparency and ability for the next chief to communicate better with the public.
Brunson, who's been with the department since 1995, says he's looking forward to an upcoming forum, where all three candidates will field questions from the community.
"I really care about what the public thinks. Their thoughts. So, to be able to answer those questions is extremely important," Brunson said.
Assistant Chief Harpole stood at the side of Mayor Tom Barrett in the hours following the violent protests that broke out in August of 2016, after a deadly police-involved shooting near Sherman Park.
A police source said Harpole was well-respected in his time as a District 3 captain, recalling a time Harpole joined rank-and-file officers in a foot chase outside the police station.
Harpole, who's been with MPD since 1985, hopes to build upon Flynn's decade-long tenure.
"We already have a lot of engagement with our community -- community-based organizations and other organizations as well. I will continue that," said Harpole.
The police source said Brunson also served in Internal Affairs and was viewed by many in the department as being fair when investigating officers and not being afraid to discipline problem officers.
In the past, FOX6 News profiled the work Brunson has done on community-based initiatives.
"For a split second there, you're thinking this is just a dream," said Morales in May of 2012 in an interview commemorating the 10-year-anniversary of a courthouse shooting that left Morales being hailed as a hero.
Captain Alfonso Morales is perhaps best known of his actions in 2002. When a murder suspect disarmed and shot a courthouse deputy, Morales fatally shot the man.
The MPD source said Morales is well-decorated, having served as a homicide detective, commander of the Crisis Negotiation Unit, and, most recently, overseeing a unit that focuses on the most violent gun offenders.
Morales, who was appointed to the department in 1993, says he's keeping his comments -- at least for now -- behind closed doors.
"I would prefer the FPC would make their comments before I do, so I'm going to hold back," Morales said.
Darryl Morin, with the Community Coalition for Quality Policing, said he's pleased with each of the finalists, but wants to see the candidates demonstrate their people skills.
"What the community's really looking for is for a candidate that will not only have the technical expertise or the policy expertise but has those interpersonal skills to relate to members of the community -- as well as rebuild those relationships within the department itself with the rank and file," said Morin.
Fred Royal, President of the Milwaukee NAACP Chapter, said he would like for the next chief to be more willing to take criticism.
"If this interim chief of police truly wants to develop better community-police relations, they’re gonna have to be more receptive to being able to receive input and take direction from other than the normal channels," Royal said.
On Thursday, Flynn said to this point, he's had no role in picking his replacement.
"Well, the Fire and Police Commission hasn't demonstrated the slightest interest in what I think about the selection process," Flynn said. "Obviously, they’ve chosen a process that is very involved for the purposes of an interim chief and we’ll just have to see how that works out."
Next Thursday, Feb. 8, the public will have another chance to hear from the candidates. Each of the finalists will appear at a south side community forum.