Sheriff Clarke wants to go back to regular deputy patrols of County Parks

MILWAUKEE -- In late September, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Mayor Tom 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. Sheriff Clarke is calling for his deputies to go back to regular patrols of County Parks, versus simply responding to calls.

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 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.

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.

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

Abele says the proposal will hopefully save $250,000 for city of Milwaukee taxpayers.

In front of Milwaukee County Board's Budget Committee Thursday, October 11th, Sheriff Clarke defended his right to have money for the Parks.

"We've had discussions with the County Board members regarding this plan put forth by the County Executive, who moves money around and decreases the level of service in terms of response and visible presence," Sheriff Clarke said.

Some Milwaukee County leaders, including Alderman Bob Donovan supported Sheriff Clarke Thursday -- saying he is concerned the Milwaukee Police Department is already stretched too thin.

"What's happened is the city police and the suburban police have been forced to provide the police protection for County parks because the Sheriff's Department hasn't been doing them. I get calls from constituents about response time. The police have finite resources, and the police, in my opinion, are having a difficult enough time patrolling the streets," Alderman Donovan said.

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 needs the approval of the Milwaukee County Board and the Milwaukee Common Council.

Some County Board members have claimed they never had a chance to review the plan unveiled by Abele and Mayor Barrett before it was unveiled. Mayor Tom Barrett ran the idea before Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and many aldermen on Milwaukee's Common Council. But County Executive Chris Abele did not do the same with Milwaukee's County Board.

Mayor Barrett says nothing is a done deal, and there is always room for negotiation.

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