Alfonso Morales' attorney says he's now Milwaukee police chief 'on paper,' still reviewing options

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- There's a new twist in the tale of Milwaukee's next police chief. On Friday, Dec. 18, a judge reversed the Fire and Police Commission's decision to demote former Police Chief Alfonso Morales, which effectively reinstated him to the position.

Morales retired after the FPC demoted him down to captain in August. Michael Brunson has been acting police chief since, but Brunson is retiring this month. The FPC named Jeffrey Norman the new acting chief.

Now, it appears Morales is back in the mix.

"Who is the police chief right now in the city of Milwaukee?" CBS 58's Rose Schmidt asked Frank Gimbel, Morales' attorney.

"The chief on paper is my client, Alfonso Morales," Gimbel said.

Gimbel said the Circuit Court judge's ruling Friday means Morales is once again Milwaukee's top cop. But it's a bit more complicated than that.

"He retired from the department so he's not a member of the department at the present time," Gimbel said.

Reggie Moore, injury and violence prevention director for the Office of Violence Prevention within the city of Milwaukee Health Department, said the situation has created a "perception of instability in the community."

"It just seems like another chapter in the saga of what's been the Fire and Police Commission this year. With a year with unprecedented levels of violence, we really need a police department as well as the Fire and Police Commission that is functional," Moore said.

He said he's had good working relationships with Brunson and Norman.

"I think the residents of the city deserve consistent and competent leadership, both within the police department but also within the Fire and Police Commission," Moore said.

The FPC also remains deadlocked on two external candidates for permanent chief, FBI Special Agent Hoyt Mahaley and Dallas Police Major Malik Aziz.

Several alders have called for Norman, who was one of six finalists for the position, to run MPD on a more permanent basis.

Alderman Ashanti Hamilton released a statement saying in part, "Acting Chief Norman's 24 years of experience on the force and his skill as a manager and a police officer give the board and the City an opportunity that should not be lost. We all heard last night that former Chief Morales was reinstated to his position by a judge. No one yet seems to know what this means, but it will likely be some time before a settlement of the matter can be reached."

A statement from Alderwoman Chantia Lewis said in part, "Although a judge late yesterday struck down the FPC’s demotion of former Chief Alfonso Morales to captain (stating that he should be restored as chief), I believe that matter will ultimately be settled in court, and we will have an acting chief in place for some time (possibly several months)."

It's unclear how Morales' reinstatement affects the search for a permanent chief going forward.

Gimbel argued the FPC has damaged Morales' reputation and made him unemployable. He said Morales is still reviewing his options.

"I think we're kind of playing in our court. We have the ball. And if they want to take it away from us, they've got to pay something that is going to attract the chief away from returning to his job," Gimbel said.

Gimbel said he's set to meet with the city attorney on Monday.

The FPC and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett did not respond to CBS 58's requests for interviews Saturday.

In a statement Friday, Barrett's office said, "We will continue to consult with the City Attorney’s office regarding this matter."

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