Op Ed

Mayor’s Budget Doesn’t Divest From Police

We need real cuts, more spending on violence prevention. Come to Tuesday night budget hearing.

By - Oct 5th, 2020 11:02 pm
Repainting the "Defund the Police" mural. File photo by Graham Kilmer.

Repainting the “Defund the Police” mural. File photo by Graham Kilmer.

In a year rocked by ongoing police brutality nationwide, Milwaukee is already leading the nation in holding police accountable. Last year, a LiberateMKE campaign helped strip $900,000 from the city’s police department budget, steering it instead toward youth employment, affordable housing and non-policing violence prevention.

But that still doesn’t go far enough toward helping our city mitigate the long-term effects that police brutality has had on Black Milwaukeeans.

That’s why we’re asking Milwaukee residents to show up for the City Council’s budget hearing on October 6 at 6:30 p.m., to tell city officials to divest at least $75 million from the police department during their internal budget deliberations.

Elected officials need to hear what we really want: for our money to be spent on public health and on housing cooperatives that will help all Milwaukeeans thrive. The Mayor’s proposed budget does not reflect that. The Mayor Budget rejects the will of the residents who a recent city survey wanted a significantly smaller percent of the budget going to policing. Instead, they wanted money to go to investments into neighborhoods, public health and libraries.

The city spends far more on police than straight budget numbers suggest. According to a recent report by Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), Milwaukee has authorized $26.1 million in borrowing to pay for police settlements and judgments — all through bonds estimated to add about $3.7 million in interest payments to the initial settlement costs.

These police brutality bonds put that interest, as well as millions in associated banking fees, into the pockets of Wall Street executives — at the expense of Milwaukee taxpayers. Victims and families need and deserve to be compensated for violent encounters by the police and these settlements will never be adequate for harms caused to victims and families of police violence. Police will continue to use our money to harm us. That is why we must continue to divest from policing to build the communities free of police violence.

Investments in public programs go much further toward keeping our communities safe. For example, the $900,000 already divested from policing is going toward a higher hourly wage for Earn and Learn workers, which helps city youths gain job skills through summer employment. It’s also going toward emergency housing for people displaced by lead, domestic violence, and other issues. Imagine how a further divestment could fund services for residents who need it most.

Even as Milwaukee continues to pay hundreds of millions to police, it has raised taxes, closed fire stations, and eliminated firefighter positions. Cutting quality of life services and continuing to invest $300 million in police each year does nothing to keep Milwaukeeans safer. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We’ve already proven that we can make our voices heard in the halls of power. Now, we have a chance to do it again. On October 6, join us to demand that the city’s police department be further defunded, to build a city where Black people can live safely.

Markasa Tucker, Co-Founder of LiberateMKE; and Rick Banks, Political Director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) 

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: Mayor’s Budget Doesn’t Divest From Police”

  1. Larraine says:

    Thanks Markasa and Rick for this op ed. The mayor is showing no leadership in the important issue.
    We need broader police cuts. We need to keep working for justice in this city. That is the opposite of what we have: a police state.

  2. just1paul says:

    You want to see what a police state is? Read up on Nazi Germany, the old soviet and other communist countries.
    What about the black on black murders of children and innocent people?
    Sure let’s cut the police even further and the people that are shooting and killing children and innocent bystanders can keep going at it.
    Better yet let’s not have the police respond to those calls and eventually the people MIGHT rise up against the thug element to stop the bloodshed instead of everyone standing around saying the police and/or the city needs to do something to stop it.

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