MILWAUKEE — As calls to defund or dismantle police departments across the country grow, a local alderman says he’d like to see funds moved away from the department. Alderman Russell Stamper says there has been a growing movement for the Common Council to act on the issue.
“Never have we received this much support, never have we seen this much effort to defund the police department” said Stamper.
The 15th district alderman says he and other Common Council members have been receiving emails and calls from constituents about the Police Department’s funding.
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer, there has been growing support for change.
“There’s a plethora of ideas and a plethora of proposals that are on the table that will definitely be on the table when it’s time for the police budget to be discussed, proposed and voted on” said Stamper.
Stamper would like to see something in the area of $5 to $10 million dollars cut from the police department’s nearly $300 million budget. Moving that money to other community initiatives including housing and the health department. Stamper does not support getting rid of the department.
"We do need the police department, we need individuals who are going to protect and serve,” he said.
The Milwaukee Police Department issued the following statement on the proposal.
“Reduced funding in any law enforcement agency can have a significant impact on the daily operations of that organization which could impact the community as a whole. Reduced funding could result in a shortage of officers which could delay calls for service, reduce community engagement efforts along with other initiatives.”
Mayor Tom Barrett is another official who does not support disbanding the department.
“I think at the end of the day in our society we have to have people who are going to respond to calls for service. If a woman gets raped, if there’s a robbery, if there is reckless driving I think most people will agree that you are going to have to have the police department there to do that. Now do I want the police department to be of the community and part of the community, of course I do. But I don’t envision a day when we don’t have a police department in the city of Milwaukee,” Barrett said when commenting on the matter.
The city and the Milwaukee Police Association, the officers union are currently negotiating a new contract after the current deal expired at the end of 2019. Barrett could not comment on the negotiations and the union did not return our request for comment for this story.
In the meantime, Stamper has drafted what he calls the “I Can’t Breathe” legislation. It calls for an immediate action by the Fire and Police Commission to adopt a policy on changing the restraint of anyone in police custody who says they can’t breathe.
The Common Council takes on the budget for the police and other city departments in the fall.