Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Slowly Opens Up to the Community

Jul. 11, 2013
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The city’s Fire and Police Commission has come under heavy fire for making some questionable calls in the past year. 

It didn’t discipline an officer for punching handcuffed woman in the face, then, after much outcry, reversed its decision.

It didn’t discipline the officers involved in the in-custody death of Derek Williams, either.

The mayor’s previous appointee, Ann Wilson, had to travel a rocky road to her confirmation earlier this year, with complaints from council members and the public that they had no say in whether she should be confirmed.

In response to this lack of public input, Mayor Tom Barrett and members of the Common Council are trying to make the FPC nomination and confirmation process a bit more open.

So how’s it working?

Barrett appointed immigration lawyer Marisabel Cabrera to the FPC in mid-June. She will face the council’s Public Safety Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, in Room 301-B of City Hall.

Members of the public who attend the meeting can weigh in on her appointment by submitting their questions in writing to Richard Pfaff, the Legislative Reference Bureau’s manager.

Cabrera’s nomination is the first one made under this kinda-open system, where members of the public can submit their nominations online.

She’s also attended two community meetings, one on the north side and one on the south side. I don’t remember receiving a press release about these meetings, and only the south side meeting got any coverage. If you have any information about the north side meeting, please let me know. 

She’ll face the public next Wednesday, which is the only opportunity the public has to question her and raise their concerns.

Unfortunately, this meeting is in the middle of the afternoon, which makes it difficult for folks who work during the daytime.

In response to my email, Ald. Terry Witkowski let me know that community members will not be able to submit questions to the committee if they cannot attend the meeting. If they want to weigh in on Cabrera’s appointment, they’ll have to contact their representative on the Common Council, who will consider it (presumably) when they vote on her appointment.

Baby steps!

Here’s Witkowski’s press release on Wednesday’s meeting:


Public Safety Committee to take up FPC

appointment confirmation


The Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on the appointment of Marisabel Cabrera to the Fire and Police CommissionAlderman Terry L. Witkowski, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said that the hearing will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17 with some remarks from Ms. Cabrera. Residents are invited to attend and participate in the hearing, which will be held in Room 301-B at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St.  


Members of the public who wish to speak regarding Ms. Cabrera’s appointment must register for the opportunity with the committee clerk at the hearing, and after his or her name is called, each speaker will have three minutes to address comments to the chair. Anyone who would like to pose questions to Ms. Cabrera can submit them in writing. After they are sorted to remove duplicates, the questions will be posed to Ms. Cabrera by Richard Pfaff, manager of the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau.


Committee members will also have their own opportunities to question the appointee. At the end of the hearing, the committee will vote on whether to recommend confirmation of Ms. Cabrera to the full Common Council.


Cabrera is an immigration attorney based out of Milwaukee who also serves on the Council for the Spanish Speaking Board of Directors, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Voces de la Frontera. She applied online for a vacant seat on the commission using a new system created through cooperation between Alderman Witkowski, Common Council President Willie L. Hines, Jr., Mayor Tom Barrett and the City Clerk’s office.


Alderman Witkowski said that he hopes residents will be able to attend or view the hearing, which will be televised live on City Channel 25 on Time Warner Cable and U-Verse Channel 99 in the City of Milwaukee. The meeting will also be streamed live on the city’s website at 


“The goal of creating an online application process for citizens who want to serve on city boards and commissions was to increase the transparency of and public input into that process,” Alderman Witkowski said. “Ms. Cabrera’s application utilized this new process, and I look forward to even more public input at the hearing.”


Residents can also offer their input about the appointment (and about other city business) by calling or emailing their Council member. Please go to to get contact information for Common Council members, or call 414-286-2221.




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