Tom Barrett Speaks On Milwaukee Crime Increase

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Tom Barrett Speaks On Milwaukee Crime Increase

Premiere Date: 
August 23, 2013

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett discusses his plans to address a crime increase in the city, as well as a recent tour of a city neighborhood that top Republicans took and that he showed up to uninvited.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett wasn't invited, but showed up to welcome the Republicans this week in the 8th district in his city. Mayor Barrett has proposed adding 100 police officers to Milwaukee's force next year. He joins us from Milwaukee and, Mayor, thanks very much for doing so.

Tom Barrett:

It's a pleasure to be with you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, what is the take on the Republicans coming to town and saying that your city isn't doing enough to stop crime?

Tom Barrett:

Well, we have a situation here in Milwaukee where we began this year on a pretty good note. Where over the first six months our violence issues were under control. In fact, the police chief has talked in the last couple of days about how optimistic he was after the first six months. But in July, and August in particular, we have had very, very difficult time here in Milwaukee with violence. And so what the police chief and I have done is we've made several proposals to the state legislature and the state government dealing with sentencing, dealing with the concealed carry law, dealing with the need for resources to help us fight crime here in the city of Milwaukee. I have a lot of confidence in my police chief as to what he's doing. Others, some in state government, have questions-- have questioned what he's doing. But I'd rather have a trained professional run my police department than have a politician, quite honestly.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, speaking of more state resources, I know that you have asked the state for a $500,000 match to help cover police overtime. Senator Alberta Darling, who was along on that tour, however, while she applauded your move to hire 100 additional officers, she said that throwing money at it is not what people are interested in. How do you respond to that?

Tom Barrett:

Well, we didn't specify that the money would go necessarily to overtime. And, for example, one of the places where we would love to put these dollars is into our shot spotter program. This is a technology that is a very effective technology that allows the police department to pinpoint where gunshots are being fired, because in some of these neighborhoods the residents don't call the shootings in, but the police have been able to identify where these shots are coming from and they can respond quickly. Earlier this year, that was presented to the joint finance committee and they declined to fund that. And even though we were saying, look, we have been receiving these dollars from the state to help us reduce crime, the legislature decided along with the governor still to eliminate those dollars. So we left this budget with fewer state dollars for law enforcement than going into it. So there's some irony where the state cuts the funding for criminal justice issues here in the city of Milwaukee, and then turns around and criticizes us. But I certainly don't think we should be micro-managed from Madison.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, another matter is that Speaker Vos says that MPD is down like 250 officers, what with cuts and vacancies, and he questions the wisdom of police furloughs that only bump up the cost of OT. Do you dispute those numbers?

Tom Barrett:

Well, this is what's happened as it relates to the positions. For probably a decade, a decade and a half, there have been authorized positions that haven't been filled.  That’s what he’s referring to. The police force is pretty close to where it was when I took office in 2004. And what we’re trying to do here, and that’s why I proposed hiring 100 new police officers, is maintain the strength that we have. Because what we have seen in major American cities throughout this country over the last few years is, we’ve seen the layoffs of police officers, we’ve seen significant reductions in the size of police departments through attrition. And we’ve been able to avoid that here in Milwaukee. The furloughs, actually what that does is it gives us more flexibility because clearly you want to have police on the street during those period that are the most high-crime times. You don't need the police on the streets as heavily, for example, in a quiet weekend in October or November. But right now, of course you want to have more people, more police officers on the street, because there's more activity on the street. So that's the way we've managed our resources, and we think it makes a lot of sense.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, one of the things I read that you said in response to this is that you would like the state to expand Act 10 to police and fire to give you more resources, but weren't you opposed to Act 10 altogether when you ran in the recall against Governor Walker?

Tom Barrett:

Let me correct you, Frederica. Let me correct– Others here have said, expand Act 10 to police and fire. I have never made that statement. What I have said repeatedly since Act 10 was introduced is, you cannot have a system where you have police officers pitted against sanitation workers. And you can't have a system where firefighters are pitted against librarians and public health nurses. That has been my position, that it's not a sustainable system to have these different classes of public employees. Others have said that it should be applied to police officers and firefighters. I have never taken that position. I think there have to be changes, but I don't support Act 10. I don't think you have to completely take away union strength and the ability to bargain. And to me that was the essence of what Act 10 was all about.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Mayor Tom Barrett, thanks very much for joining us, and good luck with crime in the city of Milwaukee.

Tom Barrett:

Thank you very much. 


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