MILWAUKEE -- When it comes to improved public safety or saving taxpayer dollars, some say you cannot have both. However, with a plan to turn over Milwaukee County Parks patrols to the Milwaukee Police Department vs. Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says you can. Now, MPD Chief Ed Flynn is weighing in on the new Parks' policing plan.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told FOX6 News public safety will be at risk at Milwaukee County Parks. This, after County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced a plan that would strip parks' policing power from the Sheriff's Office, and handing it over to the Milwaukee Police Department.
The new parks' policing plan is the first major County/City initiative in over a decade. Under a negotiated agreement, the Milwaukee Police Department will formally assume policing duties in 2013 at County Parks in the city of Milwaukee. That includes the entire lakefront.
Milwaukee police will 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 say the agreement ensures the community will get better service in the Parks, the city will be compensated for their officers' time in the Parks and the County will get increased transparency, save tax dollars and be assured that tax dollars allotted for Parks patrol are spent on Parks patrol.
Sheriff David Clarke said it's his sworn duty to keep the peace in Milwaukee County, and he says Abele's plan just won't work. Sheriff Clarke argues the City of Milwaukee is already stretched too thin and this will make things worse.
The proposal calls for the Milwaukee Police Department to be paid $1.6 million in 2013. The agreement includes provisions that MPD will make a good faith effort to hire staff from the Sheriff's Office that may have been laid off.
Abele says the proposal will hopefully save $250,000 for city of Milwaukee taxpayers.
"It's important to note that a number of cities and counties have shared law enforcement services for years. When it comes to city parks, I mean, it was some time ago the sheriff announced that he could not longer patrol the city parks because of budget cuts. We have been engaging in those parks for some time uncompensated. Getting compensation to do that will certainly ease the burden on the police department. The resources that have been placed on the table certainly allow us to engage in hiring as well as allow sufficient overtime to cover the natural overlaps between the parks and the rest of city neighborhoods," Chief Flynn said.
Sheriff Clarke has pointed to thousands of calls for service his department has responded to as proof his deputies are watching over the parks.
"What you need to do then is take my evidence because I'd say where's his evidence? Again, that's a claim, -- an assertion that we have stopped (patrolling the parks.) I can make assertions too," Sheriff Clarke said.
"You can't say 'we don't have the resources to respond in a timely fashion to your call sir' but then say 'oh we have plenty of resources to do this other activity that's currently being performed by somebody else,'" Sheriff Clarke said.
County municipalities will split $125,000 for parks' policing under Abele's proposal. Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi says Oak Creek Police officers patrol their parks, and Greenfield officials report the same. Municipalities like Franklin, Brown Deer and Shorewood share the responsibility.