Final four candidates talk future of policing as Fitchburg PFC set to choose new chief

Four candidates speak at community panel, meet residents one-on-one

FITCHBURG, Wis. – Next month, the city of Fitchburg is planning to have a new police chief.

The final four candidates spoke at a community panel at the IUPAT Training Center Tuesday night.

That includes retired Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, Lt. Scott Kleinfeldt with the Madison Police Department, Cross Plains Police Chief Tony Ruesga and Capt. Vic Siebeneck with the Salt Lake City, Utah Police Department.

Morales has been at the center of a controversy since last summer, when the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission voted to demote him from his position of chief, in part because of his handling of protests following the death of George Floyd. That was later determined to be an illegal violation of his due process rights.

The retired chief recently reached a settlement with the city worth $627,000. He said Tuesday he wants to continue his police leadership in Fitchburg.

“I have a lot of family, eight sisters, nieces and nephews I want to catch up with, but I still have a passion in law enforcement,” Morales said. “I still have a passion where I want to work with the community, work with the youth and also mentor a police department.”

Morales, a second-generation Mexican American, also spoke about the need for diversity within the police department in a growing city. Other candidates also spoke about the importance of diversity, building trust and police training.

“I think we need to learn a new age of policing,” said Siebeneck, who grew up in Wisconsin. “We need to police fairly and impartially, absolutely across board, regardless of what membership that members of the community have.”

Ruesga, also a second-generation Mexican American, said he grew up blocks from where George Floyd was murdered.

“I envision a community that if something like what happened in Minneapolis and a person like George Floyd is being killed, that the other three officers are going to trip over themselves to get that man off, that’s what I envision,” Ruesga said.

Kleinfeldt spoke about the need to be open and transparent with police policies.

“We need to run our policies and procedures through an equity and inclusion lens and say, ‘Are these policies and procedures having disproportionate impact on people of color?’” he said.

Candidates also addressed questions about how they would respond to burglaries and stolen cars in Fitchburg, along with how best to build trust within immigrant communities. After speaking to the crowd, the finalists had the chance to talk with residents one-on-one.

The Fitchburg PFC’s timeline has them selecting a final candidate by mid-August and bringing that person on as chief in mid-September.

The former Fitchburg police chief, Chad Brecklin, has been promoted to city administrator.