New Policies Incentivize City Residency for Milwaukee Police, Firefighters
Fire & Police Commission pushing for public safety departments that reflect the city they protect and serve.
After a series of missteps, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission is moving to incentivize residency within the city for members of the Milwaukee police and fire departments.
In January, the commission adopted a policy that adds four points to the score of police officers and firefighters up for promotions. Promotions are given from ranked eligibility lists ordered by results from a written exam, oral exam, career review and seniority.
Last week, the commission unanimously directed one of its subcommittees to develop a policy that would award up to three residency bonus points for city residents that volunteer with approved 501(c)(3) charities. An existing policy awards five points to city residents on entry-level hiring.
“It would give the people that actually give back to our community and live in our community and have a stake in our community, it would give them a clear and even start from the get-go,” said commissioner Everett Cocroft, a retired Milwaukee firefighter, of the latest change on May 20th. It would take 25 to 50 hours of community service to earn one point.
Existing policies award three points to military veterans and an additional three points to those with applicable degrees. Similar to promotions, hiring is done from a scored list.
Placing higher on the lists would not only give a leg up to city residents, but could amount to a substantial financial windfall. An earlier raise would provide a direct cash boost, but it would also boost the long-term value of the individual’s pension.
Individuals hoping to secure the promotional bonus points need to prove that they lived in the city for the preceding two years. Firefighters are first eligible for a promotion after two years, police officers after four years. “We figured we would go with the lower one,” said Cocroft in January.
The commission first began considering the residency promotion idea in 2019, but a series of bureaucratic missteps including poorly-worded meeting agendas and incomplete meeting minutes delayed adoption. Then assistant police chief Ray Banks was for the idea, later he was against it. Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Organization president Carmelo Patti spoke against it.
The residency preference points proposal is a response to a 2013 state law change that unilaterally stripped the city’s residency requirement. Originally created through collective bargaining, the one-way change resulted in an exodus of public safety employees to the suburbs. As of late 2019, 45% of the sworn members of both the police and fire departments lived outside the city.
General city employees face a different incentive structure. Starting in 2019, the Common Council gave city employees that are also city residents a 3% raise. Only 16% of general city employees live outside of the city.
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