Madison has a new police chief while Milwaukee is still waiting

    Police tape with red and blue lights blurred from behind it.
    "Police Crime Scene Tape" by JobsForFelonsHub is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The City of Madison’s Police and Fire Commission (PFC) has decided on Shon Barnes as it’s next chief of police. Barnes, who is the director of training and professional development for the Chicago Police Department’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, was offered the job after the PFC’s 3-2 vote.

    Dr. Shon Barnes (official portrait)
    Dr. Shon Barnes

    Barnes beat out three other finalists for the position, including former deputy of chief of the Portland Police Bureau Chris Davis. If Barnes, who has accepted the offer, passes a background check, he’ll succeed Mike Koval, who resigned on Sept. 29, 2019. Koval’s departure came as  friction increased between the department and the Madison Common Council over funding the police.

    Now, over a year later, the offer made to Barnes comes as cities across the country are re-examining police funding. in Wisconsin,  protesters have yet to cease demonstrating in the streets since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.

    That atmosphere made it harder for Davis, who became the face of the police responses to protesters in Portland to secure a chief’s job in either Madison or  Milwaukee. Barnes was also the only African American candidate for the Madison position and, if confirmed, will become the city’s third Black police chief.

    Meanwhile the next chief of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) remains undecided. A decision is unlikely before the New Year, as a recent attempt to vote on a new chief resulted in a deadlock on the Fire and Police Commission (FPC).

    The future of former Milwaukee police chief Alfonso Morales is also up in the air. On Friday, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge tossed out his demotion, ruling that it was unjust. Morales’ lawyer, Franklyn Gimbel, said, “the question about what does Chief Morales want to do with respect to his relationship with the city of Milwaukee is yet to be determined. What will the city do if, in fact, he walks back into the Police Administration Building and says, ‘get out of my seat, it belongs to me according to Judge Foley.’”

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    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.