County Board votes 9-0 against Abele's Parks policing plan

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee County Board Budget Committee voted 9-0 Wednesday, October 24th against the County Parks policing plan brought forth by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

In a statement following the vote, Abele said: “The vote today by the Board sends a disappointing message to taxpayers and hurts future cooperation efforts between municipalities and the County. This proposal would have saved County taxpayers $5.2 million over three years.”

In late September, Abele and Barrett unveiled a new policing plan for Milwaukee County Parks. That plan calls for the Milwaukee Police Department to formally assume parks' policing duties in 2013. Under the plan, MPD would be in charge of patrols along Milwaukee's Lakefront.

The plan has drawn flack from several Milwaukee leaders -- including Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Parks and Lakefront patrols were previously handled by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office.

The 2013 Parks Policing Plan would be the first major County/City initiative in more than a decade.

Under the plan, Milwaukee police would also handle cellular 911 calls made in the city of Milwaukee. That apparently eliminates the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office taking the calls and transferring them to Milwaukee.

Abele and Barrett said the agreement ensures the community would get better service in the Parks, the city would be compensated for their officers' time in the Parks and the County would get increased transparency, save tax dollars and be assured that tax dollars allotted for Parks patrol are spent on Parks patrol.

The proposal called for the Milwaukee Police Department to be paid $1.6 million in 2013. The agreement includes provisions that MPD would make a good faith effort to hire staff from the Sheriff's Office that may have been laid off.

County Executive Abele also proposed a $125,000 grant to be split among the suburban municipalities to recognize police services at County Parks they are already providing.

Abele said the proposal would save $250,000 for city of Milwaukee taxpayers.

Some Milwaukee County leaders, including Alderman Bob Donovan supported Sheriff Clarke -- saying there are concerns the Milwaukee Police Department is already stretched too thin.

Sheriff Clarke says while he believes public safety is paramount, he believes it can be done in a different way.

"I gave my commitment that we would go back to a preventative patrol plan, which we did prior to County Executive Abele's cuts from last year. We had to go to a calls for service (plan) instead of a preventative (plan). It's a different model. I gave my commitment that we would go back to that and put the funding back in for it," Sheriff Clarke said.

This plan needed the approval of the Milwaukee County Board and the Milwaukee Common Council.

In a statement, Supervisors David Cullen and Willie Johnson Jr. said: "(The Parks policing plan) would have compromised public safety, by overburdening the already stretched MPD and by jeopardizing response times to citizen calls. Instead, this Committee of the Milwaukee County Board listened to the citizens of Milwaukee County and opted to increase the County’s investment in public safety. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors has heard time and time again that taxpayers support budgets that assist law enforcement and protect the public."

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