Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Does Milwaukee Need More Police?

Mayoral candidate Bob Donovan thinks so. How does this city compare to others?

By - Nov 24th, 2015 11:31 am
Ald. Bob Donovan. Photo by Michael Horne.

Ald. Bob Donovan. Photo by Michael Horne.

In October alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Donovan held an  entertainning press conference where he complained that Milwaukee does not have enough police, and that the department has “too many chiefs” and “not enough Indians.”

Minus the cornball rhetoric, there was nothing new about this contention. Donovan complained about a dearth of police in press releases issued in July, in June and in April of this year, not to mention press releases last year with the same message in November, in August, in June and in April.

And that’s just a selective list. Donovan’s mantra is not enough police, not enough police. It may be the first thing he says on getting out of bed. It is nearly the only issue in his quixotic run for mayor.

His most recent press conference went statistical on us, concluding Milwaukee lacks enough police because we have less than four other cities. I’m not clear where he got his statistics, but it’s fair to say his conclusion is misleading.

The most recent statistics from U.S. Bureau of Justice from May 2015 (with statistics from 2013) look at the level of police in the 50 largest local police departments in America and Milwaukee, with 38 sworn officers per 10,000 residents, has more per capita than all but eight of the 50 biggest cities. The number of sworn officers ranks from a low of 10 per 10,000 residents in San Jose to 61 in Washington, D.C.

Washington, as the nation’s capitol, with unique policing issues, is likely an outlier. Remove it from the list and the next biggest force per capita is Baltimore’s, with 47 sworn officers per 10,000 residents. Baltimore is the only comparably-sized city with more police per capita than Milwaukee. The others are far bigger cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.

If anything, Milwaukee’s ranking has risen since then, as the city added 50 more officers in 2015. Indeed, Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council have four times added more officers in recent years, adding 37 in 2011, 73 in 2012, 20 in 2013, and 50 in 2015, a total of 180 officers.

And how did Donovan vote on these provisions? He voted no on all four budgets funding the additional officers.

Donovan’s hollow pontificating, calling for more cops while opposing more spending for this, has left him with absolutely no allies on the Common Council. Not one of his colleagues is likely to support Donovan’s mayoral candidacy, as I’ve previously written. As Ald. Terry Witkowski put it, Donovan “fails to deal with reality. Finances are not important to him. Basically, what you hear him spouting is from the police union. The union is for pay, for benefits, for less work to do.”

And the police union also has no clout these days with the Common Council. Even the late alderman Joe Dudzik, whose father was a police union president, had fallen out with the union. The election of Mark Borkowski to fill Dudzik’s seat, has given the union a second sympathist among the 15 council members, at least for now.

Donovan’s most recent press conference, which suggested eliminating some police department administrators in order to pay for more police officers, was likely hatched by the police union. Indeed, union president Mike Crivello was on hand to support Donovan’s plan and declare that “the crooks have gotten the upper hand” in Milwaukee.”

The police union has opposed and undermined every Milwaukee police chief going back to Philip Arreola decades ago. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to have Police Chief Ed Flynn’s personnel decisions supplanted by a demogogic alderman and combative union leader. As for their specific suggestions, to eliminate two Assistant Chiefs of Police, a Deputy Inspector of Police at the Police Academy, a Police Captain and a Police Lieutenant in the Property Control Section, there was no chance the Common Council would approve this.

In fact the council is legally barred from doing so. As Barrett’s chief of staff Pat Curley notes, “The Common Council does not have the authority, through the adoption of the city budget or the budget of the Milwaukee Police Department, to alter the organizational structure of the Police Department. Under the statutes, the Chief and the Fire and Police Commission have that authority.”

Curley goes on: “It’s clear that Ald. Donovan has no understanding of how budgeting works. Individuals currently holding positions he wants to eliminate, under the applicable statutes and rules, would be reassigned or reinstated” — thus saving little or no money.

Curley notes that Donovan’s proposed amendment assumes that a 2008 reorganization of the department added three management positions, but it actually eliminated three Deputy Chief of Police positions in exchange for creating three Assistant Chiefs.

Mark Stanmeyer, spokesperson for Flynn, notes that as of the 2016 budget, there are two fewer command level officers authorized for the Milwaukee Police Department than when Flynn took office. Flynn also ended the annual multi-million dollar overrun of the overtime budget, which occurred prior to him taking over as chief.

The reality is that Barrett and the Common Council have been very committed to beefing up the police department. The budget for the police and fire departments now is equal to the city’s entire tax levy, and accounts for about two-thirds of the entire budget (counting state and federal funds that help support the city). Council members all understand the financial difficulty of further expanding the police force, which is why they have so little use for the histrionics of Donovan and the police union. But that’s unlikely to stop the press releases flowing from the effusive alderman.

32 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Does Milwaukee Need More Police?”

  1. AG says:

    “Does Milwaukee Need More Police?” To answer the question, since it wasn’t answered in the article… yes, it does. Anyone who has needed the police outside of downtown and the east side knows that the response times to both emergency and non emergency calls are beyond unacceptable (if they ever show up at all). That means the department is either understaffed or woefully mismanaged.

    But this article wasn’t really about whether we need more police… because once again the subject doesn’t match the content. I clicked it though… and commented even… so I guess it works.

  2. Observor says:

    As a former constituent, I found working with his aide, Patricia Doherty a real pleasure. She looked into matters and saw that they got done. Bob gets a AAAAA+ for hiring her. Bob Donovan is perched just a little beyond his Peter Principle position and should never run for higher office.

  3. AG says:

    Side note, the BLS report shows almost 2300 officers in 2013, but the current number listed by the Journal Sentinel is 1880, according to an article from about a month ago. That’s more in the realm of 31 officers per 10,000 residents. Consider Milwaukee regularly pops up on the lists of most dangerous and highest crime cities… that’s concerning.

  4. Casey says:

    I’d agree with AG’s sentiment. MPD might have 38 badges for every 10,000 Milwaukeans but I wonder how many are on the beat. I’ve called the police regarding a hit and run two years ago and while we were waiting for the police to arrive two marked cars drove right pass. This was 3:30 in the afternoon at 27th and Wells. I’ve made numerous calls about violent or potentially violent incidents on my block only to have the car race by to close the call and have to call again or have simply not showed.
    Either the department or the 911 call center is seriously mismanaged.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    Bob Donovan is a tool who should be blogging from his basement, but as even a broken clock is right twice a day, I am with him on this one. Milwaukee does need more police. My brother-in-law is a District 5 officer with nearly 10 years on the job and he has been saying this since I’ve known him (about the same amount of time).

  6. Kevin Baas says:

    We could make more efficient use of our current police force by re-drawing the police districts to equalize their share of crime.

  7. Kevin Baas says:

    Based on job code, there are currently 1573 “officers” “active” or on “paid leave”, and 296 “supervisors” “active” or on “paid leave”.

  8. AG says:

    Kevin Baas, I’m pretty sure they already do analytics based deployment. Unfortunately you can only do so much if you don’t have the resources.

  9. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Problem is that the Barrett/Chisholm/Flynn/Kremer gang has announced that we should not put people in jail and the crime problem has mushroomed. Not anywhere else in Wisconsin in the GOP areas. Throughout country in the Left wing run areas, the cities, schools are disintegrating failures of Left wing thought.
    The white, male, liberal, racist people that run Milwaukee are running it into the ground, shorting 250 officers need to police the problem areas and respond to calls. In Tosa, West Allis we get immediate responses especially when you consider that most of our crime comes out from Milwaukee. They spend the money on toys instead of stopping crime, the heroin /Fentanyl epidemic, It will never change as long as the current leaders of Milwaukee are there.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    There’s only crime in major cities run by racist Democrats? WCD’s only news source is Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.

  11. Kevin Baas says:

    …the remaining roles are “civilian”, of which there are 648. For a grand total of 2,513 employees in the entire department. You’re welcome.

    Not sure what you’re looking for there, AG. Do you want on duty? There are staffing requirements mandated by OMAP, so that tends to follow overall staff at pretty close to a fixed ratio.

  12. AG says:

    Kevin Baas, that jives with roughly the 1880 sword officers noted in the JS article.

    Personally I’d like more officers on the streets. I’m willing to pay more in taxes if necessary… knowing eventually property values would follow if we reduce crime. (I know there’s a lot more to lowering crime than officers on the street, but it’s not insignificant)

  13. Kevin Baas says:

    If you want a summary of staffed, yesterday there were 851 officers “staffed” for a total of 6,992 work hours (divide that by 8 it comes out to about 851). Note however, that these aren’t all going to be deployed at the same time – they are staffed in 3 shifts throughout the day.

  14. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Frankovis and many other, Bratton, Kelly have written at length about inner city policing. Milwaukee is not doing it, shortage of officers.
    The inner city Black families where I often worked the last 30 years are virtual prisoners to the thugs, of all colors, dealing drugs.
    Clarke should be chief, he is only one that is talking about solving the problem.
    Flynn is of questionable quality. Barrett does not have any answers to anything. Even took him ten years to get one lousy trolley. Money is being misused by city to buy votes, corruption, Chisholm spends millions, only to be tossed by 7 judges of all different philosophies in a witch hunt to avenge his wife. Money goes to the city employees to buy votes. End of story.

  15. Andy Umbo says:

    I’m living in Indianapolis, they have roughly 250,000 more citizens in the city proper than Milwaukee, and 300 less cops. It’s totally due to the Republican pro-business, anti-tax, small government forces. Get ready Wisconsin, because that’s what Scott Walker wants for you. I’ve never seen the cops patrolling here at all, they don’t do anything but respond to crime when the calls come in (not to mention, they seem under-trained, like the “bullet-heads” during the Brier administration). Poor Amanda Blackburn, killed during a home invasion, and living in a decent neighborhood? It’s because the cops don’t patrol. A mother and daughter were robbed and raped in a home invasion in Indianapolis in October of 2013, in a decent neighborhood around East 79th street? It’s because the cops don’t patrol. Gangs of thugs roam the city, and in the upscale neighborhoods as well, because they know the cops don’t patrol. They don’t patrol because there aren’t enough of them, they’d have to raise the taxes. This is what you get when you let the republicans dismantle civic responsibility as a tax issue, while they hide behind gated communities.

  16. althewheel says:

    Shame on you Bruce. Liars use statistics, especially bent ones. Those same population numbers and citys named certainly were used when Tom Barrett wanted to prop up his street car argument and that went by without a squeak. Try this newsflash, look at the statistic homicide numbers, the number of shooti gs, stabbings and stolen crashed automobiles. Telling me lies is as bad as the sounds of silence from the rest of city hall.

  17. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Milwaukee is in the top ten for: Worst crime in this size city, worst schools, worst poverty, worst management and so on. Why is this? Rest of the state is not like that even though out state far more guns per capita.
    Why did crime go down when Tommy opened up more prisons? Why has it gone up when the liberal, white, male, rracists opened prison doors?

  18. Kevin Baas says:

    @althewheel : you make a bold accusation that Bruce deliberately cherry-picked the data to support a conclusion. Do you have any evidence to support this claim? Can you provide a random sample (single or double blind) of equal or larger size that refutes the conclusion with statistical significance?

  19. Jim says:

    Gee, think one should factor in “need?” Think Chicago has more police than they need? Think a city in Idaho ‘needs’ the same amount as a Georgia city? Basing this simply on a per capita basis is retarded. Crime has increased. Therefore, need has increased. As a neighborhood crime liaison, I’m constantly getting complaints of slow or no responses to 911 calls. When taken aside, I’m told an officer is on average 7 calls behind when he or she starts their shift. There are some dedicated to patrol. That’s where we’re sorely lacking. But, it’s easy to talk in numbers from the comfort of a suburban neighborhood. Sub division.

  20. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Latest FBI stats are in and prove what I say about the dem/Lefty run cities. It is obvious that you need twice as many cops per capita in dem run cities vs those that are/were run by Conservatives like Bloomberg/Giuliani and the med/small cities.
    Crime decreased in 2014 as number of guns increased, Concealed Carry took hold.
    Less than 6 percent of murders involved long guns. Use of semi-auto/detachable magazine murders involved almost all drug dealers fighting for territory. States that have the most restrictive laws had high rates of violent crimes. Left run metro areas had murder rate 4.7/hundred 100,000 vs 3 in non metro GOP controlled ares, despite higher rates of gun ownership. Murder rate in Detroit, Baltimore form 33.8 to 43.5/100,000
    Jacksonville, largest city in Fla. where right to carry started in 1987 was at 11.2. Texas towns awash in gun carrying rednecks and gun stores were 1 tenth of Milwukaee/Chicago, NewYork after Bloomberg, Detroit,LA, DC and Philly, all run by left are worst.
    Answer, get rid of lefty DA’s, judges, mayors Chiefs and get more guys like David Clarke. Train every kid in Milwaukee at the age of 12 in gun use, safety, marksmanship, have programs like gun merit badges, for scouts and then give everyone guns on their birthdays at 18.
    Took all of the from FBI states in American Hunter.

  21. Kevin Baas says:

    You clearly don’t understand what it takes to “prove” something. Firstly, you have to actually do a factor analysis. Secondly, you should be doing the analysis based on policies and socio-economic demographics, not elected officials or party affiliation. If a party supports a policy with bad empirical consequences, then you get them on that. Even if the region’s policies are one way, that does not imply that the majority party supports that policy. It could have been e.g. blocked by the minority party preventing cloture. So you have to look at suport directly and the extenuating circumstances to avoid falling pretty to the “absolute attribution” fallacy. (which you’ve exlicitly made here.) And finally there’s the correlative fallacy. Even if a factor analysis showed correlation after accounting for variances due to other factors, and even if it was statistically significant, that doesn’t show causation.

    So in sum, not even getting into the errors in the method, you made two big fallacies,rather overtly: absolute attribition and correlative.

  22. AG says:

    Kevin, this is not Bruce Thompson’s Datawonk column. Bruce Murphy did no such statistical analysis (or really any analysis at all). Despite the misleading headline, this article is an attack on Donovan and not about whether more cops are needed.

    The only variable that is important to me is how long it takes police to respond to calls. Anyone who lives in Milwaukee can tell you that it’s an unacceptably long time. You don’t need to be politically affiliated with a D or R by your name to come to this same conclusion.

    Do you have any hypothesis, other than poor staffing or poor management, that could cause such awful performance?

  23. AG says:

    Kevin, I guess really what I should have said is… don’t pay any attention to WCD, no one else does.

  24. Kevin Baas says:

    @AG No, I don’t have any hypothesis. Just pointing out some of the major flaws in WCD’s response. re: paying attention, I guess I don’t really expect my responses to WCD to be productive. Just doing it for fun, I guess.

    I generally agree with your sentiment about response the final empirical performance measure, regarding adequate forces and deployment strategy. And of course the political orientation of elected officials or voters has no bearing on this, except exactly to the extent that their personal policy positions on the specific matter would affect these numbers.

  25. Kevin Baas says:

    …though I would add that other socio-economic policies, like education, livable wages, and economic demand growth (and thus jobs), can impact the rate of crime, and thus indirectly effect the response times, though with a significant lag and over a longer time span. So a politician’s and/or voter’s stance on these matters is relevant, as well, but can be more directly measured by crime rate per capita compared to lagged policies. Would be an interesting study.

  26. Observor says:

    When I was younger, there were no neighborhoods where crime ran rampant. No one locked their door in Bronzeville or the South Side. There was money in the city with job openings at AO Smith, American Motors, etc. Those days are gone. There never will be full employment again, at least not with sustainable jobs. So what’s the answer? Protectionist trade policies rather than free trade could bring factory work back to the States but that doesn’t seem doable. More income for city dwellers = decreased need for city police.

  27. Kevin Baas says:

    Nice find there, Jim!

    Milwaukee’s numbers (“3.4”) are off there, at least compared to what they are now. Going by 2013 Milwaukee population (599k) and current MPD staff (1573 officers, 296 supervisors), there are only 2.62 officers per 1000 people. Even if you throw in supervisors, it still comes up significantly short of 3.4, at only 3.12.

  28. Jim says:

    It’s proof Murphy is an idiot. It’s akin to the school lunch program. Never mind athlete’s require more caloric intake, same for everyone!! Plus, he’s skewing the data to fit his narrative. It’s a joke. Plus, everything is ‘the world will end and you’re a racist’ if you even think of offering an opposing view, or suggesting that cuts can be made in other areas to allow for more police. Straw man arguments. It’s ridiculous.

  29. Kevin Baas says:

    @Jim I don’t think “straw man arguments” wa the phrase you were looking for. A straw man argument is when you distort your opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack, and attack that distortion. It’s called “straw man” because of instead of addressing the persons’ actual arguments, you’re attacking the arguments of a different, fictitious person that you effectively made “out of straw” as it were.

    None of the accusations you made fit that description. Though ironically, the accusations themselves might indeed be instances of attacking a straw man.

  30. Kevin Baas says:

    That’s note even to get into the ad hominem abusive fallacy. Arguably the most egregious fallacy there is. Attack the merits of the specific arguments – not the person! A smart person may be wrong for having overlooked something, an uninformed personal be right by pure luck. In either case, no character of the person, good or bad, to any extreme, is sufficient to demonstrate that. Only the relevant facts and the proper use of logic and reason can.

    Okay, I said I wouldn’t get into it – it appears I just did.

  31. Kevin Baas says:

    By the way, if you’re vacillating between the 2.6 figure and the 3.1 figure, the 3.1 figure is actually the correct one to compare. What they’re looking for is people who are “qualified and authorized to respond”, and while a supervisor will generally spend their full day in their office, they still fit that description.

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