Activists call to defund the Milwaukee Police Department

NOW: Activists call to defund the Milwaukee Police Department

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Several Milwaukee protests are looking like those across the country and demanding city leaders pull money out of the Milwaukee Police Department.

“Our first step is divesting at least ten percent to put that into community initiatives, community goals," said Bria Smith, who organized a protest march Monday. Having like public servants come into the force and actually protect and love our community.”

That ten percent divestment would represent close to $30 million, as the Milwaukee police budget sits at just under $300 million. That makes it comprise almost one fifth of the city's total $1.6 million budget.

Some aldermen say defunding the force is extremely likely in next year's budget, despite an effort to pull $25 million from the department failing during last year's budget process.

Mayor Tom Barrett, who begins the budget process every year, has voiced concerns over funding the police budget for several years, as the city has continued to cut officer positions.

“There are real, real serious challenges there.”

Barrett noted the police budget is larger than the entire property tax levy for the city. The mayor did not immediately commit to a $75 million or nearly 25 percent cut to the department Friday.

“I would have to see where we would get the money from,” Barrett said.

Activists say police department funds would be better spent on other methods of crime prevention, as well as other aspects of the budget, like health care or education.

“For the past couple decades you’ve seen a pattern of divestment in education, so I think it’s well beyond time that we put that money back into our schools, back into our businesses, and actually having after school programs and resources for our black and brown students,” protester Ashley Smith said.

Several aldermen who spoke to CBS 58 said there have not been any serious discussions to dismantle the Milwaukee Police Department, like what is being discussed in Minneapolis. 

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