Milwaukee police chief demoted over use of tear gas at BLM protests

Chief Alfonso Morales was forced to step down after the police department's decision to use tear gas at recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Police in riot gear line up as angry crowds took to the streets for a second night to protest an officer-involved killing August 14, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has been demoted to captain less than a year after being voted into the position.

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal reports the use of tear gas against protesters in recent BLM demonstrations as one of the reasons behind the title change. In a unanimous decision, the city’s Fire and Police Commission voted to demote Morales.  

The commission received a 26-page executive summary from the Milwaukee Police Department analyzing directives including the aforementioned tear gas.

“His conduct is unbecoming, filled with ethical lapses and flawed decisions,” says Commissioner Raymond Robakowski, according to the MJS. “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.”

Assistant Chief Michael Brunson Sr. was named acting chief by unanimous vote. He was a finalist for the position alongside Morales back in 2018. According to the MJS, he shared his great respect for the department’s members, thanking Morales for his 27 years of service.

According to the news outlet, the move is a result of a conflict between Morales and FPC chairman Steven DeVougas.

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

“Chief Morales should have been given an opportunity to respond. At the same time, I understand some of the frustration because rather than responding to the directives, he spent two weeks on a (public relations) campaign and clearly that angered the commissioners, as well.”

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DeVougas’ term as chairman ended the night of the demotion, though he still remains a member. Nelson Soler was elected the new chair of the commission.

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