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'Things are getting distorted:' Fire and Police Commissioner says discussions about chemical irritants have been 'exaggerated'

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission's Policies and Standards Committee met Thursday on a number of topics, including some department policies related to use of force and civil disturbance and crowd management.

Chief Alfonso Morales was required to provide information on several of the agenda items as part of the directives given to him by the Fire and Police Commission last week.

As part of one of the directives, Chief Morales was to "promptly provide a full, public, and accurate explanation of the use of tear gas and large volumes of oleoresin capsicum spray during peaceful civil disturbances and the situations that warrant those tactics" and that the Chief "shall work with the Board of the Fire and Police Commission in amending the proper SOP(s) to discontinue the use of chemicals mentioned above."

Commissioner Nelson Soler said during the meeting he was bothered by media coverage about that directive.

CBS 58 has reported the Wisconsin Police Executive Group (WiPEG) sent a letter to Chief Morales and other city leaders in early July expressing concern over a potential lack of equipment for officers helping with the DNC. Specifically, the letter highlighted the Common Council’s objection and cancellation of the MPD plan to purchase equipment for items like tear gas and pepper spray.

Leaders of WiPEG told CBS 58 their concerns were validated on July 20 when the FPC issued the directive to Chief Morales.

“When did this Commission ask the police department or prohibit the department from using O.C.? Cause we haven’t,” said Commissioner Nelson Soler.

“We said, which I believe was started by Commissioner Cocroft, was the O.C. should not be used on peaceful protesters and I went back to the video, that’s all he said, and it has blown out of proportion to say that we’re prohibiting the department from using OC and that is not true, so I just wanted to put that out there for the record.”

Soler later told reporters the request was not to use teargas during the pandemic.

“The request was not to use teargas during the pandemic, that’s what the commissioners said. I think things are getting distorted, things are getting exaggerated, so you can go back on video and refer to them,” said Soler, “They’re saying we’re prohibiting the department from using O.C. and that other departments were dropping because of that, when do you hear that in the meeting tonight?”

CBS 58 tried to ask fellow Commissioner Ray Robakowski for more clarity on what exactly the Commission wanted the department to do, but he declined to provide any answers.

“I have to get home. I have to eat dinner,” he said.

Executive Director Griselda Aldrete also did not want to answer questions, but did respond to a statement made by the attorney for Chief Morales, that an officer was approached by a commissioner, with Aldrete present, and the officer was told the Fire and Police Commission intended to replace Chief Morales.

When asked if that happened, she said, “No.”

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