Griselda Aldrete AIM-less Executive Director of the Fire and Police Commission

in #milwaukee2 years ago

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Of all Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s cabinet level appointees, Griselda Aldrete, Executive Director of the Fire and Police Commission, stands as an outlier for her incompetence and for the destruction she has wrought on the FPC’s department.

The Board of part time, under paid, Fire and Police Commissioners is charged with enormous responsibilities: overseeing the operations of the fire and police departments; approving all hiring and promotions; investigating citizen complaints and conducting disciplinary appeals hearings. Rather than empowering them to succeed, Mayor Barrett has neglected to appoint a full allotment of 9 Commissioners, and he has saddled them with an Executive Director who hasn’t come close to fulfilling her job description.

In March of 2019, Christine Cole, representing the Crime and Justice Institute (the consultant hired to monitor the ACLU Settlement Agreement), met with the FPC and advised them:

One of the things I think this Settlement Agreement envisions is a different structure in the staff… I think they might need some help from somebody who is a specialist in sort of a staffing analysis, or thinking about the workload to staff, and to try to come up with a different kind of structure.
Despite the fact that when she took over in September 2019 as the FPC’s Executive Director Aldrete was in nearly daily contact with her predecessor, LaKeisha Butler, apparently CJI’s recommendation to do a staffing analysis was never communicated to her or, it was ignored. Rather, Aldrete immediately reorganized the FPC Department without doing a staffing analysis to align the structure with the demands of the Settlement Agreement, and without listening to the advice of the experienced hands at the FPC. This directly resulted in the departure or termination of many of the FPC veterans as detailed by former FPC Investigator/Auditor, Cheryl Patane in her scathing December 2, 2019 resignation letter :
The newly appointed Executive Director has restructured the FPC organizational chart so that she no longer directly supervises the Investigators and instead has delegated their supervision to a manager who has no prior supervisory or public safety oversight investigation experience.

The Executive Director appears to have intentionally chosen to withdraw and take a hands off approach to her statutory obligations (City Charter 314 and FPC Citizen Complaint Filing Guidelines) to review, assess, and evaluate the internal operations of the FPC citizen complaint process as well as the auditing of the MPD and MFD citizen complaint process. This shift in accountability and demonstrable lack of intellectual inquisitiveness or insight into the citizen complaint process by the current Executive Director is stunning.

Instead of encouraging an intellectually engaged team of professionals collaboratively working toward the common goal of performing the functions of the FPC, this management team is treating staff as inconsequential robots who must blindly follow directives in complete compliance, without input, or be dismissed. This type of authoritative leadership and callous approach to staff turnover has not only impacted staff morale in a negative manner, but it has also negatively impacted the FPC as an organization. I am concerned about the quality of service the FPC will provide in the future to citizens, as decades of institutionalized knowledge and dedication are eliminated by this management’s decisions to hollow out the department from the inside.

When asked about the departures, both forced and voluntary, of most of the veterans of the FPC department since she took over as Executive Director, Aldrete blithely responds that it is a chance to rebuild the department. The problem is that, with the court ordered deadlines of the ACLU “Stop and Frisk” lawsuit closing in, the FPC needed all hands on deck – rather than walking the plank.

Since Patane’s departure in early December 2019, Aldrete has left 2 key Investigator/Auditor positions vacant while also failing to hire program assistants to help meet the bare minimum responsibilities of the Executive Director to record the actions of the Board. It is difficult to see how Aldrete’s premature reorganization of the department has facilitated accomplishing its goals. And now, a year after Christine Cole’s recommendation, the FPC has finally hired a consultant to do a staffing analysis.

At the Judiciary and Legislation Committee’s meeting on March 25 we learned that Aldrete still had not gotten a security clearance and access to the Milwaukee Police Department's (MPD) Administrative Investigative Management (AIM) System (“that was on me”, she said at the meeting). This is the window into the MPD’s Internal Affairs Division where use of force reports, citizen complaints, internal investigations and other data critical to monitoring the operation of the department are stored.

When we juxtapose this with the Executive Director’s job description, it’s like the Chief Financial Officer of a Bank not having access to the ledgers or an Alder not having access to Legistar. What are the duties of the E.D.?

  • Monitor daily operations of the fire and police departments
  • Manage the citizen complaint program
  • Audit police internal investigations
  • Perform independent investigations of police misconduct
  • Advise and direct internal affairs and commission investigators during investigations of misconduct
  • Independently monitor and audit police investigations
  • Oversee the disciplinary appeals process
Failing to gain access to the AIM system is stunning evidence of the “demonstrable lack of intellectual inquisitiveness or insight” on the part of Aldrete that Patane referred to.

The lack of trust and confidence by the Board in the Executive Director’s ability to “perform independent investigations of police misconduct” was painfully evident in the case of the leaked MPD Sensitive Crimes Unit video of the interview of an alleged suspect. The Board had to start from scratch seeking funding, investigators and staff to support what should have been done by their Executive Director and FPC staff. But with two Investigator/Auditor positions vacant and a third assigned to overseeing legal compliance with the ACLU Settlement Agreement, the FPC has no staff or resources available to conduct an independent investigation of the MPD and furthermore, Aldrete has NO experience leading these types of investigations.

Besides hollowing out the department and neglecting to reclassify and fill vacant positions, Aldrete has failed to document motions and decisions enacted by the Board. FPC meeting minutes, far from being verbatim transcripts, are barely more than a restatement of the agendas and the FPC “files” created on Legistar to record the resolutions that come before the Board are never more than a title – they are never “filled”, as the Alders say, with analysis, whereas or “be it resolved” clauses. The substantive debates and decisions by the Board are no longer memorialized in the record as they had been in the past.

For example, back on September 12, 2019 the FPC’s Testing and Recruiting Committee passed a motion to amend a resolution authorizing a new round of examinations for police detective, sergeant and lieutenant to include 4 Residency Preference Points. But, because this motion was never put “on the record”, the Committee was boxed in at their November 14, 2019 meeting and forced to approve the exams sans RPPs.

At that November meeting the Testing and Recruiting Committee passed a motion to amend a resolution pertaining to the psychological exams for police and fire department candidates to provide for an appeals process. The minutes of the November 14, 2019 meeting have not been published and the resolution has not be amended to include the motion. Inexplicably, former Staffing Services Manager, Dr. Robin Joseph, a trained psychologist who skillfully lead the committee to their eminently reasonable conclusions, was terminated by Aldrete within days after the meeting.

On December 18, 2019, after a long struggle, Voces de la Frontera succeeded in persuading the Board to amend the MPD’s Standard Operating Procedure 130 – Foreign Nationals – Diplomatic Immunity – Immigration Enforcement by limiting department member’s cooperation with ICE. The final amended version of the SOP still has not been attached to the corresponding file on Legistar nor has the SOP been updated on the MPD’s Code of Conduct website.

At the February 6, 2020 Regular FPC Meeting Commissioner Wilson, responding to a public comment regarding the question of exactly who is “in charge” at the FPC, asked that the question be brought up at the next meeting. Board Chair DeVougas turned to “madame secretary” to ask that the record reflect Commissioner Wilson’s request and the Executive Director directed him to the program assistant instead. The request was not recorded in the minutes nor did it appear on the next meeting’s agenda – like it never happened.

There are systemic challenges facing the FPC. A part time, under paid and under-staffed Commission lacks the authority to appoint its own Executive Director. The Mayor refers to the Executive Director as the leader of the FPC and the Common Council consistently ignores the Board when items concerning the FPC come before their committees. Replacing Griselda Aldrete with a seasoned law enforcement veteran who has actually conducted investigations of police departments and possesses administrative and interpersonal skills will not fix all of the problems facing the FPC, but it will go a long way.

Those who would give up essential Competency, to purchase a little temporary Stability, deserve neither Competency nor Stability.”, channeled from Benjamin Franklin

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