Sheriff David Clarke responds to proposed Parks policing plan

MILWAUKEE -- 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.

"Tom Barrett and Chris Abele will not make public safety decisions for Milwaukee County. I will. We've heard about low response times. Why would you want to throw this on?" Sheriff Clarke said.

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.

"This increases public safety, lowers costs, increases coordination," Abele said.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Patricia Jursik represents suburban areas of the south shore, and says she worries $125,000 will not be enough for the rest of the municipalities to provide adequate security in their parks.

"He`s going to take $1.6 million and give it just to the City of Milwaukee and give everyone else $125,000. When you`re talking well over 50% of the park land, this does not make sense," Jursik said.

Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi told FOX6 News there are currently no County patrols of Bender Park. Because MPD is already patrolling the park, Scaffidi said Oak Creek would welcome any compensation for policing.

Mayor Tom Barrett ran the idea before Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and many aldermen on Milwaukee's Common Council. But County Executive Abele did not do the same -- and that's becoming as big a story as the plan itself.

Marina Demitrijevic, the Chairwoman of the Milwaukee County Board, issued the following statement regarding this proposed plan: "While the County Executive claims this proposal is a good one and that we should all agree with his ideas, the County Board and the public have not had a chance to review it and to ensure that the plan does not diminish public safety or leave taxpayers holding the bag...We certainly hope today’s media announcement does not leave anyone with the impression that this proposal is a done deal.”

Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Willie Johnson, Jr. issued this statement on the matter: "I question if this is true collaboration when policy-makers are left out. I would like to see County Executive Abele take a page from Mayor Barrett’s book on building consensus. I question if this is true collaboration when policy-makers are left out. I would like to see County Executive Abele take a page from Mayor Barrett’s book on building consensus."

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

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