City leaders seek 10% Milwaukee Police Department budget reduction in 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Common Council President Cavalier Johnson says a file was introduced on Monday, June 15 with the purpose of directing the City of Milwaukee’s budget office to prepare a model 2021 police department budget showing a 10% reduction in resources. Those resources, Johnson said, would instead be reallocated to critical community needs such as housing, the health department and violence prevention, as well as funding the work of the Community Collaborative Commission.

In a news release, Johnson continued with the following statement related to this filing:

"I co-sponsored that legislation and I did so with the ideas that I presented last week for police reform in mind. I believe that the conversations around police reform and reallocation of resources are intertwined and must happen simultaneously and not in separate siloes.

"Let’s keep in mind that the 2020 police budget consumes just over 45% of the City’s general fund revenues compared to funding for the Milwaukee Public Library (at just under 4%) and the Milwaukee Health Department at just over 2% for the same year. In fact, for the last few years, the budget of the police department captures every single property tax dollar generated in the city plus several million more and in 2021, as in years past, the police department is asking for more.

"Couple that with the fact that the state shared revenue program that in the past paid the entirety of the cost of the police department and left the city with millions of additional dollars to invest in infrastructure and other areas, is simply broken and we have a funding system that is simply unsustainable.

"These issues collide after the death of yet another African American, George Floyd, in police custody and endless protests in streets across the United States and around the globe calling for systemic change to American policing.

"Look at the protests in Milwaukee, New York City, Paris, Chicago, Seoul, Wausau, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and so many other cities and countries around the world. Listen to their cries. Hear their passion. Know their determination. Witness their diversity. This I believe is a critical inflection point and an opportunity for our city to meet this moment in history."

Alderman Jose Perez also weighed in with this statement:

"Our citizens have been marching in the streets for the past several weeks demanding change. They deserve to be heard. If adopted, this proposal will begin a community discussion of how we could make that change. Although the Common Council does not set police policies and procedures, it can urge police reform and community reinvestment through the budget process. This proposal will not decrease the 2021 budget for the Milwaukee Police Department, only the 2021 budget, adopted in November, can do that.

"The Common Council receives the budget in late September. We then have one month to make changes to a document appropriating over a billion dollars, with thousands of lines. It is time to consider the impact a change in the MPD budget could have. This must be done far enough in advance so that these proposals can help inform the creation of the Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Executive Budget. It is time for the Common Council to be proactive in the budget process.  We can no longer afford to be reactive.

"Thirty days from now, I expect to see the model 2021 budget include real, manageable budget changes that can be reinvested to meet the demands of our neighborhoods."