No really, if this isn’t the worst idea ever for the Common Council, it has to come pretty close.
After the shine had come off the copper for Police Chief Edward Flynn, there were continued disputes between the Common Council, Mayor Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission and Milwaukee citizens at large. There have been many moving chess pieces…changes in the FPC, the chief moving on to greener pastures and the Common Council working to gain more authority over the firing of the chief. Major changes like that require approvals by the Wisconsin Legislature.
But now the Common Council is discussing changing the way Milwaukee selects its police chief. Currently the chief is hired and vetted by the Fire and Police Commission. The FPC consists of individuals appointed by the mayor and the appointments are approved by the Common Council. So the commission is installed by elected officials but on a certain level should have reduced political influence than straight on electeds. This is a model commission studied by other government entities and emulated elsewhere.
So how would the Common Council improve how we select our police chief? Have the public elect them! Have politicians run for chief. Supposedly the commission picks the most suited law enforcement person they can find…but now we get to select them via yard signs and clip boards and probably outside money and political action committees. I can’t think of anything I’d love more than have one of the Koch brothers’ groups weigh in and contribute campaign funds in a race for Milwaukee Chief of Police. Or to have a chief who will spend time that should be devoted to law enforcement in fund raising or getting ready to run for re-election every four years.
The Common Council is debating a new proposal that would permit the City of Milwaukee to make the position of police chief an elected one — putting the selection process in the hands of the voters. The resolution is sponsored by Ald. Khalif Rainey.
“What we do is we allow the actual public, which is being policed by these police officers, to have a say in the neighborhood, because clearly right now what’s occurring isn’t effective,” said Rainey. “So what I’m attempting to do is to see if there is possibly another means of bringing leadership to our community.”
Now I know that Chief Flynn was unpopular in many quarters. But I don’t think we should throw out the current process for a half assed election process instead just because we didn’t like the chief. If there are some issues with the commission that need to be fixed, let’s fix them.
And we have first hand, right here in our county, proof positive that this is a horrible idea: former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke!
Ald. Robert Bauman argued that “the electoral system is not a guarantee of accountability whatsoever.” He cited the example of former Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., who he called an “absolute disaster” and a “demagogue” who was accountable to no one.
It’s apparently cold in hell today because I agree with Ald. Bauman!