MPD’s Constant Need for More Officers – Why I’d vote no tonight.

Posted January 16th, 2018 @ 11:13 AM by

It seems the police are constantly shifting the ground under the policy makers about why they need more officers. And because the elected officials change all the time, they don’t see the tactics that have taken place over time. Let this old timer explain . . . I’ve been fighting “more police” since 2001 and during that time they have added 94 more sworn officers. We’ve gone from 1.6 officers per 1000 in 1994 to 1.9 officers per 1000 in 2016. The budget has grown from about $35,000,000 to $70,000,000 in that time. When will it stop? There is always an excuse or a reason usually based on fear – let me run them down for you.

From my perspective

Remember that riot on Mifflin St. in 1996 – I remember, I was there and working with the police to keep the event safe – at that point we had 1.7 officers per 1,000. Two years earlier we had only 1.6. Policing in the city was sufficient. Same complaints as today, but many fewer officers per 1,000. And we didn’t fall apart. We had the “blue blanket”, “broken window theory” and then that turned into “Weed and Seed” efforts – popular buzz words to jsutify more police. But things were roughly the same. Same scare tactics, gangs, shots fired, etc. Back then they believed in “neighborhood officers” still, and used that for a while too. All of it was political.

In 2001 and 2002 we had budget battles over how many police to add. At some point I think we were arguing about 17 more or 9 more – I know the only police officers I voted for was 2001 or 2002 and I only did it to make Mayor Bauman mad – it was a very bad reason – but I got caught up in the council vs. the mayor politics of the time. In 2003 we created a police staffing committee to look at how many officers we needed. At the time the argument was about if we needed 1.8 or 1.9 officers per 1,000 people. At the time I argued that if we are counting the police, we need to county them all – including the UW police and the capital police. I lost that argument and foolishly agreed to the 1.9 officers per 1,000 using the bad numbers. I was wrong, but I was young, and silly, and believe it or not, easily influenced after spending hours and hours and hours with the police. It’s easy to make bad decisions when you are charmed and manipulated.

In 2007 or 2008 the police had gotten the ratio they had wanted an needed a new way to justify police. So they did the ETICO report. While we were discussing the budget that year, I very vividly remember asking Chief Wray if we could see that report prior to voting on if we should add more officers – I think we were arguing about if we need 4, 8 or 12 that year. He stood in front of the council and said no, he didn’t have to. No more charming me – I voted no.

Since that time we’ve had one or two more reports. They just keep shifting the methodology of the reports to get the answers they want to justify new officers.

The police are masters at the political game. They are the only department that issues press releases and writes memos with their budget requests. Every summer they use their power with the media and highlight the current crisis – in the 90’s is was sexual assault on campus, when that no longer worked it was the burglaries, currently its the shots fired. They are masters at manipulating data and manufacturing crises. And yet, was all know crime is falling. A recent New York Times article explains – “Crime is Falling, but Police Levels Remain Robust,” 1/8/18

No matter what report you look at and what strategy we use – we get more and more officers and the budget increases and outpaces any other department growth in the city. Check out table A on page 5 for the numbers. Note, they are back to offers per thousand justifications in 2016.

New alders fall for new tricks. It works for the police department no matter who the chief is. They are masters at growing their budget and avoiding accountability. The OIR report ($400,000 consultant report) details why we need to look at this issue in a much deeper way. Do we really need 8 more police officers if we don’t know what they do?

Do we need more officers because we have retirements? No, the authorized strength remains the same and they can hire the same number of officers.

Do we need more officers because of the times we go to priority calls only. If you ask the mayor, yes. If you ask the police, no.

Alder Rebecca Kemble goes into way more detail and much more eloquently, but the bottom line is, we don’t need more officers. We need more officer accountability.

Urge your council members to vote no tonight. (email allalders@cityofmadison.com) It only take 5 of them to stand up, to not fall for the tricks I once did. It’s confusing when you’re getting all this information and propaganda thrown at you. Urge them to stay strong, loo at the facts, and vote no so they don’t regret tonight’s vote the way I regret a few of my earlier votes on the council. We can’t sustain this type of growth in this one department that has no accountability when we have so many other needs in our community.


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