Harold Breier

Click the image to learn more. Harold Breier served as Milwaukee's police chief for twenty years, one of the longest tenures in the history of the department.

Harold Breier (1911-1998) was Milwaukee’s chief of police from 1964 to 1984, one of the longest tenures of chiefs of Milwaukee’s police department. He joined the department in 1940 at the age of twenty-nine. In 1943, after a brief stint in patrol, he became an acting detective and subsequently rose through the detective ranks until he became chief of police.[1] From his beginning as chief he was known as an authoritarian “law and order” leader who brooked no challenges to his rule from either inside or outside the department.[2] As such he was a polarizing figure: for many, his policing style maintained Milwaukee as one of the safest cities in the United States; for others, his tactics and utterances exacerbated a growing racial divide in Milwaukee. Breier’s influence on the police department and the city was to be felt into the twenty-first century.[3]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ George L. Kelling, Policing in Milwaukee: A Strategic History (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2015), 72.
  2. ^ Kelling, Policing in Milwaukee, 72-76.
  3. ^ Kelling, Policing in Milwaukee, 76-79.

For Further Reading

Kelling, George L. Policing in Milwaukee: A Strategic History. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2015.

Snyder, Ronald Howard. “Chief for Life: Harold Breier and His Era.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2002.


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  1. steve262 says:

    I was just curious on how you determined that Milwaukee was “one of the safest cities in the United States” when during his time in office there was a spike in many crimes that I believe is noted in Policing in Milwaukee: A Strategic History.

    • seligman says:

      Thank you for this question. The footnotes on this entry refer you to this source for further information: George L. Kelling, Policing in Milwaukee: A Strategic History (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2015), pp. 76-79.