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City leaders meet with Milwaukee police to discuss proposed budget cuts

Posted at 12:48 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 13:48:17-04

MILWAUKEE — Members of Milwaukee's Finance and Personnel Committee met Wednesday for a discussion about Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed 2021 City Budget, which includes proposed cuts to the Milwaukee Police Department budget.

After reviewing the proposed budget, committee members heard from Acting Police Chief Michael Brunson about the impacts budget cuts could have on the department.

The proposed cuts would force the police department to eliminate somewhere between 120 and 150 positions through attrition.

Chief Brunson said COVID-19, the current policing climate, and an increase in violent crime make it challenging to consider budget cuts heading into next year.

"We do have to have a police department prepared for potential civil unrest in our city," said Brunson while looking ahead to next year.

Brunson pointed to this year's civil unrest and to a spike in violent crime, particularly in homicides and non-fatal shootings, as major challenges that remain persistent for the department.

"You can't predict what's going to occur or the rest of the year or even into next year," said Brunson.

Mayor Barrett's proposed budget slices more than $400,000 out of the 2021 MPD budget. The budget would be roughly $296 million.

The cut to positions and finances could have an impact on the streets.

"It is going to be a huge challenge because if we have another year like 2020 with the increase, or even if it stays the same, as far as violent crime is concerned, that’s going to require overtime to investigate and address those issues," said Brunson.

Police argue that the cost of public safety is on the rise and MPD had requested a budget of $315 million dollars for 2021.

Chief Brunson told council members on the Finance and Personnel committee that a smaller police force in 2021 would likely lead to slower response times. He also said there would be less opportunity for police to be proactive in investigating and fighting crime and less time for officers to find opportunities to engage with the community in meaningful and proactive ways.

The committee members asked questions for several hours about the impact of budget cuts on neighborhoods and on the police force.

The full common council is set to vote on the proposed budget in November.

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