Milwaukee’s search for an interim police chief is down to two candidates - Inspector Michael Brunson and Captain Alfonso Morales.
Assistant Police Chief James Harpole withdrew his candidacy and announced his retirement days before the three were set to attend a public forum.
Last night, the two remaining candidates had the chance to answer questions from the community, and explain how their experiences in law enforcement would influence their role as chief.
The informational meeting for the public was held at the Mexican Fiesta headquarters on Milwaukee’s South Side. Those that arrived early were eager to talk to the candidates before the forum began.
Some even took photos, and hugged Inspector Michael Brunson and Captain Alfonso Morales.
Others wanted to introduce themselves and wish the candidates luck.
One community member, Jose Ruiz, says crime is out of control. So he was pleased the forum gave people and the candidates for chief a chance to interact.
“I like what they’re doing here. I like the momentum here that the city wants to keep up with its candidates. I hope they choose a candidate that works on those issues. We need that. I would like to see whoever they choose here to make sure that he breaks away a little bit from the mayor of the city and work for the people,” Ruiz says.
This forum was similar to an event held late last month, where audience members submitted questions to be read aloud to the candidates.
People asked what an ideal department might look like under the candidates' leadership, what they planned to do about the shortage of officers, and how they would deal with the community when officer involved shootings occur.
Some said the department isn't representative of the communities it serves -- and asked how the candidates for interim chief would change that.
Captain Morales says people of diverse backgrounds have to both be involved the decision making process, and hold leadership positions.
He says that’s something he hopes to bring to the position if he’s selected. “I think the city will be pleasantly surprised at the diverse leadership that will be in, and not only the diverse leadership because we’ve seen that, but diverse leadership that has say and is able to make decisions in the way our police department is going.”
Inspector Brunson said he was eager to expand on efforts to improve police-community relations.
He said that's something he's worked on in his career with the MPD. “I think that I bring to the table that experience where I believe that training, and encouragement and working with the community too, are aspects that we can bring together to make this city better.”
Both candidates pledged to collaborate with the community and city organizations, if selected -- and also promised to work together on initiatives, no matter who gets the position.
The city's citizen panel, the Fire and Police Commission, expects to name an interim chief next week -- one day before Chief Edward Flynn steps down. He's retiring after 10 years in the post.