Ald. Bob Donovan
Press Release

Alderman Donovan seeks public safety plan, strategy and vision from Mayor Barrett

In a letter (attached) sent today to Mayor Barrett, Alderman Bob Donovan asks the mayor to provide the leadership necessary to guide Milwaukee out of its ongoing public safety challenges. In the letter, Alderman Donovan states: “Specifically, I am asking you to develop a vision, strategy and plan for public safety in Milwaukee. This plan must give the beleaguered citizens of this community hope, provide them with some light at the end of the tunnel, and foster their belief in a better, more prosperous future.”

By - May 20th, 2014 03:29 pm

Dear Mayor Barrett:
I happened to catch you on the news last night saying that, very soon, 65 additional police officers will be hitting the streets of Milwaukee. It sounded good. I was impressed. The only problem is, it’s simply not true. Let me set the record straight. As of last week, 48 police officer recruits were in the Safety Academy – two fewer than the 50 originally promised. They will graduate in mid-July. Typically, new graduates are assigned to field training officers, who continue their training on the job for several more months. If I’m somehow mistaken and through some miracle you’ve been able to conjure up 17 additional officers, please, by all means, keep on conjuring. Heaven knows we could use the extra help!

One final suggestion: you may want to assign those 17 phantom officers to undercover duty, since no one will ever be able to identify them. Now, to the purpose of this letter. In the past week, Milwaukee witnessed 18 shootings and 5 homicides. Ironically, this week had been proclaimed “Ceasefire Week,” a series of events encouraging nonviolence in the city. This level of violence is shocking, simply shocking. Let’s analyze these numbers for a moment. If this week were the norm for Milwaukee – and I fear we may be headed in that direction – the city would experience over 940 shootings and more than 260 homicides each year! What has happened to Milwaukee? Again, I say: what has happened to Milwaukee? I’m sure you would agree, the status quo simply cannot continue. Therefore, today I am calling on you, as Milwaukee’s pre-eminent elected official, Milwaukee’s number one leader, to do just that — lead our community out of this mess. Specifically, I am asking you to develop a vision, strategy and plan for public safety in Milwaukee. This plan must give the beleaguered citizens of this community hope, provide them with some light at the end of the tunnel, and foster their belief in a better, more prosperous
future.

The plan that I am requesting that you put forward must definitely go beyond a ceasefire Sabbath, gun buyback programs and peace marches. The plan should be in writing and encompass goals, objectives and a detailed time table for implementation. I don’t believe it is at all unreasonable to make this request of you. I stand committed to helping in any way I can to develop this plan. As far as the seriousness of Milwaukee’s crime problem, I feel compelled to make a few important points on this matter.

1. In my estimation, growing levels of crime and disorder are affecting too many neighborhoods in
the city. If these problems are not addressed in a meaningful and timely manner, they will spread
throughout the city like cancer.

2. Given the level of violence now plaguing this community, the Milwaukee Police Department is
grossly understaffed to meet the challenges it faces. The chief and other MPD personnel may not
voice this concern publicly, but it is the hard truth facing our overworked police force.

3. The use of MPD officers working overtime is not a viable, long-term solution to Milwaukee’s
public safety crisis. The use of MPD personnel working overtime can fill some of the gaps, so to
speak, but in the chief’s own words, he is literally “hemorrhaging” overtime. If anything, officers
working overtime are experiencing even more “burnout” than the police force as a whole.

4. The 120 additional police officers in the 2014 City Budget won’t begin to make a dent in the need
for more officers. The 48 recruits being trained at the Safety Academy right now won’t graduate
and be on the streets until mid-summer, while the recruits hired for the other two 2014 recruit
classes won’t be available for patrol until 2015. The slow pace of putting additional officers on
the streets, plus the huge number of sworn MPD personnel currently or soon to be eligible for
retirement (over 300 by the end of 2015) means that little real progress is being made in
bolstering Milwaukee’s police force.

5. I’m also gravely concerned about the deployment of one-officer squads. This jeopardizes the
safety of not only our citizens, but our police officers as well, requiring them to respond to
potentially violent situations all alone. I’m sure you are aware there are some police districts
where it’s not uncommon to deploy, on some shifts, just 5, 6 or 8 officers to respond to calls for
service and patrol an entire police district of up to 100,000 people. This dangerous situation is just
unacceptable.

6. We should all be worried about the low morale of Milwaukee police officers. They are
overwhelmed and simply cannot keep up with all the demands of their jobs. I don’t need to point
out to you that, on lists of occupations with the highest rates of suicide, divorce, etc., public safety
officers are routinely at or near the top.

Mentioned in This Press Release

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