KEY POINTS

  • The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission voted to demote Police Chief Alfonso Morales.
  • The commission cited Morales handling of the June 2 Black Lives Matter protests where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd
  • Mayor Tom Barrett said the protests were the breaking point for Morales and the commission's chairman

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission voted unanimously to demote Police Chief Alfonso Morales to captain less than a year after he was promoted to the top position.

The demotion stems from Morales 'order to use tear gas to disperse Black Lives Matter protests on June 2, days after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Several members of the commission also accused Morales of repeatedly lying to the commission since taking office in December 2019.

“His conduct is unbecoming, filled with ethical lapses and flawed decisions,” Commissioner Raymond Robakowski told reporters. “Mr. Morales has failed the men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department, the people of the city of Milwaukee and he has misled me. And none of this is acceptable.”

Reports from the June 2 protests said protesters were out for most of the day after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he would not issue a curfew, but warned one would be issued “if conditions warrant.”

Protests continued into the evening as police in riot gear were deployed to maintain control. Police said protesters started throwing water bottles at the officers, who responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. The crowd was then told to disperse, leading to multiple arrests as the scene became chaotic.

However, Barrett said the handling of the protests may have just been the breaking point for tensions between Morales and the commission’s chairman, Steven DeVougas.

“Clearly there is a blood feud between Chief Morales and Chairman DeVougas,” Barrett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And I think it’s all really bad for our city and they both should be embarrassed.”

The commission named Assistant Chief Michael Brunson Sr. as the acting commissioner, who will be sworn in Friday.

“I want to thank Alfonso Morales for his nearly 27 years of service and dedication to the city of Milwaukee,” Brunson said in a press release. 

 Morales did not comment about the decision, but his lawyer said they have not ruled out suing the city in an effort for Morales to keep his job.

milwaukee protest The August shooting death of Sylville Smith touched off two nights of violent protests in Milwaukee that caused millions of dollars in damage, Aug. 14, 2016. Police Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was charged in the shooting on Dec. 15, 2016. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein