Wisconsin Attorney General candidates debate how to stop crime in Milwaukee

When it comes to crime, Milwaukee County outpaces the state with 53,719 offenses in 2021.
Posted at 6:02 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 19:21:34-04

MILWAUKEE — With just nine weeks until the General Election and Milwaukee has once again become the center of debate for the candidates running for Wisconsin Attorney General.

The top two candidates want to see changes so the violence that happened over the Labor Day holiday weekend is not repeated.

Another shooting downtown Monday morning has left a stinging feeling for locals who frequent Milwaukee's entertainment district.

Cell phone video shows the end of a chase and then a shoot-out near Water Street and Juneau Friday night. The chase ended with Milwaukee police saying Ernest Terrell Blakney, 47, shooting at police and officers firing back. During the shoot-out, Blakney, a homicide suspect, was shot and killed by police, and a 22-year-old bystander was also hit but is expected to survive.

“These officers and every officer out there is seeing an increase in violent crime. They have been extended. They have had their off days canceled on short notice, and they are attempting to do a lot more with a lot less resources,” said Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Police Association.

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Eric Toney, (R) Wisconsin Attorney General Candidate, is the current district attorney for Fond Du Lac County.

On Monday, there was another shooting at 1:30 a.m. in downtown Milwaukee near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and State Street. It left two people hurt who are expected to survive. The union says these violent crimes are taxing Milwaukee officers.

"As we saw our staffing level fall, we saw an increase in violent crime around the city,” said Wagner.

Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Candidate Eric Toney, who is backed by Milwaukee’s police union, says he wants to increase resources. So does Democrat and incumbent Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. Part of the way they want to increase those resources is by having original prosecution authority. That could only come if the legislature approves that change. Toney wants that authority for Milwaukee County. Kaul wants it for the entire state.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul
Attorney General Josh Kaul.

"Make Milwaukee a priority because if we protect Milwaukee, we will protect all of Wisconsin. That is why I have advocated for granting our Attorney General original prosecution authority here in Milwaukee, so we can take on the crime that they are unwilling or unable to prosecute,” said Toney.

When it comes to crime, Milwaukee County outpaces the state with 53,719 offenses in 2021, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The numbers drop off significantly after Milwaukee County. The rest of the top five counties for criminal offenses include 14,016 in Dane County, 4,909 in Brown County, 4,162 in Waukesha County, and 4,052 in La Crosse County.

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"I think that the Attorney General should have original prosecution authorities statewide, so that if there are crimes where the AG's office can step in and prosecute that we have that ability. Now we also need to have resources in the AG's office to make sure that authority is effective,” said Kaul.

The candidates also differ on where the money for those resources should come from. Milwaukee's mayor and police union want to see shared revenue from the state increased as the city faces significant budget cuts. Toney would not commit to advocating for an increase in shared revenue. He wants money to come from the governor's office by using American Rescue Plan dollars.

A suspect was killed and a bystander was injured in a shootout Friday night in Mlwaukee's entertainment district.

"We have a budget surplus and that is an issue the legislature is going to have to address and I'm going to work with them in making sure that Milwaukee has those resources but that can't happen until next year and we need that now,” said Toney.

"My opponent has said he wants to use one-time funding, but that's not going to get the job done. We need long-term funding so that we can hire more police officers and more prosecutors and make sure that when people commit crimes, they're being held accountable and end up behind bars if they've committed serious offenses,” said Kaul.

Both candidates say there also needs to be changes made to the bail system to make sure violent offenders are not given low bail.

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