New police chief to focus on homicide rate, budget

“I think it’s going to be a challenge for her,” Jones said. “I believe she’s capable of standing up to that challenge, but the challenge is there.”

According to Robert “Woody” Welch, chairman of the Fire and Police Commission, the No. 1 problem facing the city of Milwaukee is homicides — “gun homicides and the proliferation of illegal guns.” He said he feels Hegerty is capable of addressing this challenge.

“The No. 1 thing is the police department’s budget,” said Beth Nicols, executive director of Milwaukee downtown Business Improvement District 21, a downtown business organization. “That will dictate the cash she has to fight crime.”

Several people interviewed said police officers on the street support Hegerty.

“A number of commissioners had a chance to talk to rank-and-file police officers, and at the end of the day, she was the clear choice,” Welch said. The Fire and Police Commission was in charge of hiring Jones’ replacement at the end of his seven-year term.

Welch said the application process began almost a year ago. He said 47 applications were taken out and 25 were returned. Applicants had to write three essays, addressing their strategy on leadership, crime prevention and budgetary issues.

After reviewing applications, the commission reduced the applicant pool to 14, and then interviewed those people, Welch said. Jones applied for another term, but was eliminated after the second round of cuts, when the pool was reduced to 10 applicants, he said.

Welch said the 10 remaining applicants were sent to a management firm for eight hours of evaluation that took into account what the commission was looking for in an applicant.

From there, the commission cut six more applicants and held a second public hearing with the applicants. They announced on Oct. 16 that Hegerty would be the next chief.

Welch said Hegerty had the “education, experience, knowledge and ability” the commission was looking for in a candidate.

“We have a really good police department with competent individuals,” said Mike Mervis, president of the Brady Street Area Association, a neighborhood organization which covers the area from the lake to the river on the east and west and from the edge of downtown on the south to just south of North Ave. on the north.

“What we need is leadership that is more tolerant, flexible and involved at the neighborhood level,” Mervis said. “I’m very confident Chief Hegerty fits that category. She’s smart, she’s savvy, she’s frank and I think she has really good management skills. And that’s what it takes.”

June Moberly, executive director of the Avenues West Association, said she does not know Hegerty, but has heard good things about her from the 3rd District police officers. The Avenues West Association covers approximately 90 square blocks from 11th St. on the east to 27th St. on the west and Interstate 94 on the south to Highland Ave. on the north, Moberly said.

“I know I did read that our chief-elect Hegerty said she only plans to serve one term,” Moberly said. “That frees her up to do what she needs to do with out having to worry about the politics of it. That has real potential to bode well for the long-term health of the department.”

Hegerty could not be reached for comment.