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Milwaukee Common Council members criticize Gimbel’s ‘racist remarks’ on radio show

Eleven members of the Milwaukee Common Council are criticizing the attorney Franklyn Gimbel’s comments about the history of policing in the city, calling his remarks racist, inaccurate and “profoundly disturbing.”

Gimbel spoke on 620 WTMJ radio on Monday about the former Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales’ lawsuit over his improper demotion by the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission. Judge Christopher Foley on Dec. 18 reversed the commission’s decision, giving Morales his job back.

During the five-minute radio interview, Gimbel said he served on the Fire and Police Commission from 1977-82 while Harold Breier was chief of police.

“He was an old-fashioned law-and-order guy if ever there was one,” Gimbel said.

The Milwaukee aldermen and alderwomen Ashanti Hamilton, Cavalier Johnson, Nik Kovac, Nikiya Dodd, Milele A. Coggs, Khalif J. Rainey, JoCasta Zamarripa, Chantia Lewis, Mark A. Borkowski, Jóse G. Pérez and Russell W. Stamper II released a joint statement late on Wednesday afternoon that said Gimbel’s remarks were racist, inaccurate and outrageous.

“Perhaps Attorney Gimbel has fond memories of those bygone ‘law and order’ days that don’t relate to the well-documented racism and fascism of Breier’s 20-year reign as chief,” the statement said. “It’s possible he was merely ignoring, rather than celebrating, Breier’s open support of racial segregation.”

The council members said Gimbel’s comments that followed made it clear what he meant.

Gimbel said all of the commission members at the time of his service had graduate degrees or were high officials in labor organizations, and they “seemed to get it right most of the time.”

“Perhaps using ZIP codes to appoint people to that commission, rather than IQs, may contribute to the kind of faltering steps that they’ve taken in the recent years,” Gimbel said.

The Common Council members pointed out that the current six commission members also have advanced degrees and hold leadership roles. Two are lawyers, one has a doctorate in ministry, and three lead a variety of organizations as board members.

“If Mr. Gimbel thought he was concealing his meaning behind clever language, he did a poor job of it,” the council members’ statement said. “Nonetheless, let us spell it out: None of the six members of Milwaukee’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners are white. In Attorney Gimbel’s day, most were.”

The council members encouraged Gimbel to speak out about what he meant by his ZIP code remark if he was trying to do something other than divide people by race, though they said they couldn’t think of what it might be.

The council members said although they were defending the commission against Gimbel’s attacks, they did not necessarily agree with all of its decisions.

“(D)espite some recent disagreements about particular decisions, we prefer a police oversight commission that is willing to hold chiefs accountable and publicly challenge the department,” the statement said.

Gimbel met with the Milwaukee City Attorney’s Office following the Monday radio interview. He told the Associated Press on Monday that they “were not close to any reasonable settlement terms” following the meeting.

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