Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Delays on Federal COPS Grant

Would fund 30 positions, prevent more police reductions, but presents future fiscal issues.

By - Nov 25th, 2020 09:25 am
Milwaukee Police Department. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Police Department. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously voted Tuesday to delay considering a federal $9.7 million grant to fund 30 new police officer positions until December 15th. It’s the second time the council has held the grant since early October.

The latest move came after Alderman Jose G. Perez said he still has questions about the grant. Mayor Tom Barrett and Council President Cavalier Johnson have both announced their support for accepting the grant.

Perez didn’t elaborate from the virtual council floor on what his questions are. He wasn’t present last week when the Finance & Personnel Committee reviewed the grant for a second time.

Johnson said the council was not jeopardizing the funding by delaying until December.

The city applied for the federal Department of Justice COPS grant earlier this year. But initial terms of the grant required the Milwaukee Police Department to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of any illegal immigrants in custody and jeopardized the grant’s acceptance.

A standard operating procedure, adopted in April by the Fire & Police Commission, prevents MPD from cooperating with ICE on matters of illegal immigration in many cases without a warrant.

But MPD received a waiver on that requirement in October.

But questions remain as to whether the city could run into challenges if it elects to lay off officers in the future. Recent fiscally-motivated cuts to the police department have taken place by attrition as officers retire or resign. A 120-officer cut approved for 2021 would take place under that framework.

Without the grant, the city would lose 150 officers over the course of 2021.

Future years are expected to bring more difficult city budgets. The city pension fund is expected to require an additional $100 million annual contribution starting in 2023.

The grant would pay for all costs related to the officers, including fringe benefits, for three years, but requires the city to maintain the positions in the fourth year.

“We expect attrition to be significant enough that it should not impact the budget overall and we should be able to absorb these people in 2024,” said budget director Dennis Yaccarino to the Finance & Personnel Committee last week. He said 371 employees would be retirement eligible by 2023 and others would leave for other reasons.

The city, under terms of the grant, could also petition for a budget hardship exemption from the Department of Justice.

“It’s going to be really hard if we do turn down $9.7 million from the feds to go to the state and get a very welcome ear if we ask for additional revenue,” said Alderman Scott Spiker during the committee meeting last week. The city needs state approval for a new sales tax or pension reform.

Attorney Ben Roovers said the funding requirement applies to the positions and not the specific personnel, which could allow the city to work around cuts, even if the specific personnel are let go.

The city’s union contract with the Milwaukee Police Association calls for the newest hired employees to be let go first in the event of layoffs. Both parties would need to agree to a memorandum of understanding to modify that provision.

At various points in the review process council members Nik Kovac, Milele A. Coggs, JoCasta Zamarripa, Khalif Rainey, Marina Dimitrijevic and Chantia Lewis have voted against accepting the grant. Zamarripa voted for accepting on its third committee review.

One thought on “City Hall: Council Delays on Federal COPS Grant”

  1. Ryan Cotic says:

    We are on pace for the most homocides in the history of Milwaukee and these idiots wont take the grant to help protect its citizens. Am I missing something?

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