195 new officers in Milwaukee budget proposal amid growing crime

More than half of murders in Milwaukee in 2021 remain unsolved. That is one item discussed as Milwaukee Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Norman answered questions Monday, Oct. 11 about the growing violence in the city as the Common Council debates the Milwaukee Police Department's budget.

As some activists demand defunding the police, Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed budget for 2022 plans to use American Rescue Act money to hire three classes of new recruits; 65 new officers per class for a total of 195 new officers. Because of attrition, people leaving the department or retiring, the total average number of police in next year's budget will be 1,657, which is 25 less than the current budget. Since 2017, the force next year will be down 231 officers.

In total, the mayor's proposed budget would give MPD $278 million. That is a reduction from last year's $295 million, with some of the drop due to moving 911 calls outside of MPD.

Acting Chief Norman says they need new officers, and without them: "There’ll be some challenges. Again, we will continue to provide those services, but in the end, there is going to have to be a reassessment of what can we do and we’re going to have to make some decisions about what we’re not going to be able to do."

Several people speaking at a recent public hearing on the budget called for cutting the Milwaukee Police Department budget.

"We want to see $75M from the police budget reallocated back into the community to better support the youth, to better support our people, to better support our communities," said Yante Turner, a fellow at the African American Roundtable.

The debate comes as violent crime is up the city.

Milwaukee homicides in 2021 are down by seven compared to early October 2020, but non-fatal shootings are up 712 so far in 2021 compared with 559 this time in 2020.

ShotSpotter technology reports rounds fired per year, January-Sept. 30.

  • 2016-23,137
  • 2017-26,642
  • 2018-19,663
  • 2019-18,253
  • 2020-40,815
  • 2021-50,983

What are the reasons for the uptick? 

"Number one is unknown. We have a large number of ‘unknown’ for the reasons for the violent crime," said Norman. "Second to that is poor conflict resolution, argument. And third to that will be drugs."

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More and more homicide cases remain unsolved. The clearance rate of homicide cases solved in 2019 was 77%. In 2020, it went down to 55%, and in 2021, it’s at 46%.

"The post-George Floyd era, we’ve been having some challenges with police legitimacy in the community, and we have seen in the last two years people not being willing to come and provide that information that they would have in the past," said MPD Inspector Paul Formolo. "There’s definitely a correlation with clearance rates and the cooperation of the community."

Car thefts are also up. The 7,921 car thefts in 2021 already tops the previous 11 years with more than two months left in 2021.

"It’s the highest crime rate the city has faced in its 150-plus years," said Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy.

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"I do know that you do have challenges in regards to employment, and I know that we all are still dealing with the leftover of what COVID-19 have dealt us in 2020," said Norman.

Shooting scene at 8th and Cherry, Milwaukee

"Certainly, the pandemic is a factor," said MPD Chief of Staff Nicholas Desiato. "We know that nationally, there’s an increase in violent crime. Certainly, something is particular in Milwaukee because our homicide rate is about three times the increase in other cities."

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