MILWAUKEE — For the first time, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson warns there could be major budget cuts coming to public safety, including the police department. This comes as the city is already at a critically low level for police officers, according to the Milwaukee Police Association.
The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is like a lot of places right now, they are short-staffed. However, this has been an ongoing problem for the last two years and the current levels are so bad right that the Milwaukee Police Association president Andrew Wagner says there was no backup for some officers last week.
"Two of our detectives were out doing follow-up. They noticed an armed robbery suspect had pulled up. They asked for uniform personnel to respond. When they asked for uniform personnel they were told there was no one to respond to them right now,” said Wagner.
The two detectives ended up getting hurt trying to bring in the suspect. The union says this is an ongoing problem. Milwaukee police have been below full staff for the last few years.
Since 2019, MPD has gone from being down 36 sworn officers to now having 236 vacancies.
"It is not my desire to cut police at all. I would not like to see any service delivery to be cut at all, but at the same time costs continue to rise,” said Johnson.
It is not just the cost of living Johnson has to be concerned about. Last year, former mayor Tom Barrett warned a budget cliff was coming and it might be here. The city has to pay $70 million dollars a year to fully fund the pension. Without any new state revenue coming in, Mayor Johnson says the city's hands are likely tied and cuts could happen.
“We have tried and tried to make sure we spare police and fire. These core services, city services,” said Johnson. “We've tried not to do that really there is nowhere else to go at this point.”
However, the police union warns with crime rates at the worst they have been in years the city needs to look elsewhere.
"We are talking about citizen lives and our community being safe. The more budget cuts that come to the police department, the increase in the crime rate goes up and we have seen that over the last two years,” said Wagner.
The mayor and the union both say they are working with state lawmakers to find a way to get more revenue to the city. But any change at the state level will likely not happen before the budget has to be adopted, which is on Nov. 4.