MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan, who is running for mayor, on Wednesday, May 20th held a "kick off rally" for his "2016 Common Sense for Milwaukee Mayoral Campaign." During that rally, held at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center of Wisconsin on W. Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, Donovan unveiled his ten-point plan for improving public safety in Milwaukee.
Donovan says his Public Safety Plan was assembled after interviews with experienced sources in law enforcement, including retired command staff from the Milwaukee Police Department.
"We're going to take whatever, whatever steps necessary to reduce crime and restore order to the streets and neighborhoods across Milwaukee, and I mean all neighborhoods," Donovan said.
Donovan laid out his plan in a statement to FOX6 News:
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett claims public safety is his “top priority." Is it really? While the mayor puts fewer and fewer cops on our city’s streets we have seen an alarming 72% increase in gun-related crime from 2010 to 2014.
Auto theft and violent crime is skyrocketing, up 53% and 25% respectively during the same period.
2015’s homicide rate is up 189% over last year and the city is on a pace to suffer more than 200 homicides this year, an all-time record.
Traffic enforcement is nearly non-existent and as a result our city is on a pace to experience 66 traffic-related fatalities this year.
Where is our city’s curfew and truancy enforcement?
If the mayor truly set public safety as his top priority, by all accounts he has failed.
One of the jobs of local government is to reduce crime, fear and disorder. The goal is to maintain good quality of life and safe neighborhoods for residents.
As a four-term south side alderman I have fought long and hard on the issue of public safety. As mayor I would make public safety my number #1 priority because from the safety and security of our neighborhoods springs the bountiful potential to solve many of our city’s other issues.
Here is my ten-point "Public Safety Plan" for Milwaukee:
Police department furloughs and fire department brown outs and downsizing are a threat to our community’s public safety. Police furloughs this year will remove officers from our crime-ridden streets to the tune of more than 40,000 man-hours, reducing our ability to fight crime. We’ve experienced cuts at the fire department under Mayor Barrett’s watch, which risks our residents’ safety. In the post-9/11 era and while many of our neighborhoods are run by criminals, it is more important than ever to provide the necessary staffing at our police and fire departments to ensure public safety.
Without doubt one of the most effective means of improving public safety is to put more police officers on the streets. Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton accomplished this in the 1990s in New York City. They assembled a surge in the ranks of the NYPD and within a few years turned New York City around and made their city one of the safest large cities in America. In their approach to policing, Giuliani and Bratton applied the “broken windows” theory of urban decay, which holds that minor disorders and violations create a permissive atmosphere that leads to further and more serious crimes that threaten the safety of the city and its residents.
In Milwaukee’s case, our police department is currently operating at a deficit. MPD’s number of sworn members is lower today than when Mayor Barrett took office in 2004 and as a result our officers -- already experiencing low morale -- are overloaded with calls and responsibilities not typically assigned to uniformed officers.
I seriously intend to tackle crime and return our neighborhoods to law abiding citizens. As mayor I would hire 300 to 400 new officers in the first two years of my term and focus many of the new hires on beat patrols, which have proven in study after study to be extremely effective in identifying and eradicating issues at the neighborhood level because the assigned officers get to know their beat. Beat officers, working closely with neighborhood residents and businesses, also help to improve police-community relations.
As I predicted in March of 2010 -- when Chief Flynn changed MPD’s pursuit policy to one of basically no pursuits --criminals have taken to repeatedly driving away from police because they know our officers will not pursue. Unless you’re a criminal who’s just committed a violent felony, you can simply drive away. The police are not allowed to pursue you because it’s against Chief Flynn’s policy. I’m told criminals from Chicago are making the drive up to Milwaukee to commit their crimes due to our “soft” pursuit policy. We already have enough criminals here at home and now we’ve hung a welcome mat out for others to come to town? It’s gotten so bad I’ve had officers tell me they’ve been flipped off by passengers in vehicles next to them at red lights. The vehicle then peels off through the red light with its passengers laughing as they know the officers are unable to pursue because it would be a violation of policy. I’ve been told by officers they are witnessing drivers speeding down our streets at 70-80 miles-per-hour but there isn’t anything they can do because to pursue such a vehicle is against policy. MPD has already recorded more than 1,000 non-pursuits this year. What other crimes have those 1,000 criminals gone on to commit because Chief Flynn gave them a pass? Certainly police pursuits must balance the immediate need to apprehend a suspect with the safety of the officer or officers involved and innocent civilians. I do not want to see officers or law-abiding citizenry injured or killed due to a pursuit of a criminal.
But the current pursuit policy is extremely lenient and criminals are taking advantage of it. It’s time we rescind the 2010 policy change. There is a common sense balance to pursuits and that is returning to the previous policy which allowed supervisors to make the call to continue or disengage a pursuit based on information from officers on the street.
Milwaukee’s mayor, like those in many of our nation’s large cities -- New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Minneapolis to name a few -- would appointment the police and fire chiefs, contingent on confirmation by the Milwaukee Common Council. The buck will stop at the mayor’s desk. The public will easily ascertain who is responsible. The demands placed on the Fire & Police Commission have become more numerous and technical. While the Fire & Police Commission would remain intact and keep many of their current duties, the mayor would make appointments. This policy gives the mayor more control, oversight and direct responsibility to the residents of the city.
The command staff level of the Milwaukee Police Department is a bloated bureaucracy. We need to cut back on the number of assistant chiefs and upper command staff positions and reallocate our resources to hire new beat cops to patrol our neighborhoods.
We must bolster our police districts, not further weaken them. Uniformed officers need to be on the street, preventing and fighting crime. They do not belong tied up doing investigations that had traditionally been the responsibility of detectives. Officers should remain in their assigned neighborhoods, get to know the residents and business owners, build relationships, get to know the good and the bad. If I were mayor I would bolster the Detective Bureau, weakened under the current administration, and restore the Vice Division, eliminated by the current administration. Regarding drug enforcement, drug related arrests were down 40% last year compared to 2010. I assure you, drug use and drug dealing has not decreased 40% at the same time. Our city needs to wipe the scourge of drugs and drug dealing off our streets as it is responsible for much of our city’s gun violence.
Operation Impact, which I founded in Milwaukee’s 8th Aldermanic District in 2008, is a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach to reducing crime and disorder. The program is a way to partner law enforcement and city resources with private donors and local businesses to bolster public safety. Components of the program include:
Supported largely by private contributions, Operation Impact has been a stunning success for the 8th Aldermanic District that has prevented and reduced criminal activity, thereby enhancing residents’ and visitors’ sense of security and neighborhood quality of life.
This has, in turn, led to other positive changes in the community, including new and expanded business and housing investment and renovation. ShotSpotter technology is a gunshot detection system that detects and conveys the location of gunfire or other weapon fire using acoustic, optical and other types of sensors, as well as a combination of such sensors. These systems are used by police to identify the source and, in some cases, the direction of gunfire and/or the type of weapon fired. ShotSpotter has been highly effective in helping MPD pinpoint the time and location of violent incidents in the target area.
Typically on any given block in even the city’s most challenged neighborhoods, just one or two houses or businesses are the source of 95% or more of the problems -- drug dealing, gang activity, loitering, loud music/noise, underage drinking, various disturbances and other activities that generate dozens of calls for police service. The city of Milwaukee has an effective tool for dealing with these nuisance properties: the Community Prosecution/ Nuisance Abatement Unit of the District Attorney’s office, which collaborates with community agencies and other city departments to abate nuisance properties, eliminate known drug and gang houses, investigate and prosecute problematic licensed premises, address boarded-up and vacant properties, and prosecute various ordinance violations.
The Community Prosecution Unit has been successful in reducing crime and disorder as well as code violations at properties for which its resources have been harnessed and employed. Milwaukee needs to expand this program to each police district to extend its benefits to all challenged Milwaukee neighborhoods so every Milwaukeean feels safe at home.
I may not agree on everything with Chief Flynn, but I do agree with his assessment of our Juvenile Justice System. It is irretrievably broken. It seems day-in and day-out we hear shocking stories of out-of-control juveniles behaving outrageously and, in some cases, committing heinous crimes. I have people familiar with the situation telling me Milwaukee’s Juvenile Justice System is among the worst in the nation, with kids not getting turned around or rehabilitated, with the vast majority of them assembling lengthy police records by the time they turn 18. The Juvenile Justice System was set up to ensure our laws are enforced, that those who violate the law are punished, that the punished are reformed and as a result order restored. That is not occurring in Milwaukee. The current Juvenile Justice System is failed. It is high time we make the punishments sure, swift and harsh for juveniles who break the law. The District Attorney’s Office, local judges and the state need to partner in finding the solutions necessary to repair the system. The bottom line is that the message needs to be sent to these kids that their “play time” is over and their jail time is just ahead if they continue to disobey the law. If I were mayor I would work to see that true reform comes to the Juvenile Justice System once and for all.
Finally, modeled after Philadelphia’s “I Pledge” campaign, I propose the creation of “I Pledge Milwaukee," a campaign and effort to encouraged Milwaukee residents to commit to making our city a better place by pledging to fight violence, give a few hours each month for community service, mentoring young people, getting to know their neighbors. The possibilities are endless. The “I Pledge” campaign recognizes that the power of a city lies in its people, and in particular, their collective hopes and actions. The goal of this initiative is to encourage residents to pledge actions, time, money and other resources necessary to make the community a better place for themselves, their families, their neighbors and all city residents. By successfully organizing an “I Pledge Milwaukee" campaign, we can engage all members of the community -- individuals, businesses, foundations, churches and more in doing something positive for the city. I truly believe that everyone has something to offer the community, no matter how rich or poor, powerful or humble. "I Pledge Milwaukee" could be the vehicle to help residents channel their abilities, interests and resources in a way that improves the city around them. There’s no limit to what a united Milwaukee can accomplish!
This 10-point plan is only a beginning. There are other serious issues threatening Milwaukee’s public safety. The District Attorney must prosecute violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. No more plea bargaining or tossing out of gun charges.
Our judges need to understand lenient sentences put violent offenders back out on our streets too soon, only to re-offend. There are inadequacies in our social service and mental health programs, also in need of reform. There are serious issues with our foster care system and child protective services. The bottom line in the case of many of city’s criminals is that we’re dealing with the products of the dysfunction that is the breakdown of the family unit. Every child deserves to grow up in a loving, nurturing environment in which they are taught the principles of hard work, personal responsibility and respect for others.
The mayoral race is set for spring 2016. Mayor Tom Barrett is running for re-election and Alderman Joe Davis has also announced plans to run.