MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s mayor says he doesn’t want to do it, but he has to cut police officers this year.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson made his first budget address as the city’s mayor and the $1.7 billion budget includes cuts to the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD).
“If our financial standing were better, I would favor adding more officers to Milwaukee’s police department. My proposed budget reduces sworn police strength by one percent,” said Johnson.
He says the city simply does not have the money.
“Things are getting dire out there. Local government, local communities are challenged in delivering services to our constituents, to our commuters, to our visitors and I don’t want to see this happen,” said Johnson.
The idea of police cuts was met with mainly people opposed to the plan.
“I think that is ridiculous. I don’t know who does the budget but we need more police officers,” said Latanya Beason, a Milwaukee resident.
“With the lack of police officers for protection, I don’t think that would be a good idea because the crime is steadily rising,” said Jeremy Wagner, a Milwaukee resident.
“We are not in the position with the crime rate that is happening to cut police officers. We need police officers,” said Curetia Washington, a Milwaukee resident.
That one percent cut in the budget translates into 17 police officers. This proposed cut angered the Milwaukee Police Association president Andrew Wagner.
“Seventeen officers would be like all of a late shift at District One, our downtown area, cutting all those officers and having no officers downtown,” said Wagner.
The Milwaukee police union says right now, there are roughly 1,594 sworn officers on the street. This means the city is down officers.
“Where is the immediacy to hire the officers that we are already short? It is one thing when they are cutting but they have to fill the positions that they already have funded,” said Wagner.
The city is currently budgeted for 1,657 officers, meaning the department is 63 short. The new proposed budget for next year would allow for 1,640 sworn officers, a number that has steadily decreased over the years.
The city says there will be two recruiting classes coming up and the department will be back to full strength next year. When you look at other similar cities, Milwaukee sits in the middle with next year’s proposed budget of 1,640 sworn officers.
Sworn officers in similar-sized cities:
Baltimore: 2,300 officers
Memphis: 2,080 sworn officers
Milwaukee: 1,640 (budgeted next year)
St. Louis: 1,300 sworn officers.
Seattle: 1,200 sworn officers
Some people think it is time to re-think how the money for the police is used.
“Reallocate the money. It’s not about funding or de-funding. Is it going in the right direction,” said Jessica Easter who wants to see more of the police budget used for training officers.
“The city has to find a way to allocate resources to address crime and crime starts before it gets to the street,” said Derrick Cornelious.
The mayor says these cuts would happen through attrition. Right now, they only plan on eliminating 17 officers. However, that number would double if Milwaukee fails to get a federal grant that it plans to use to fund another 17 officers.