Milwaukee alders work to flip votes, accept $10 million federal grant to hire police

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Just 10 days before his retirement, Acting Milwaukee Police Chief Michael Brunson said turning down money to hire officers stings the department, especially considering how many will soon be retiring.

“This $10 million would be monumental as far as the assistance that it would provide us, especially in light of the fact that we know that we’re losing 120 personnel,” Brunson said.

Alderman Robert Bauman wants to accept the money, which would fund 30 officers for three years. Similar federal grants have been unanimously approved by the Milwaukee Common Council for decades.

Bauman said unless the city plans to hire no additional officers for three years, and accept losing more than 300 to retirement, this choice is essentially throwing away money.

“If you’ve got to spend the money anyway, and if the feds want to provide some assistance, take it," Bauman said. "That lifts the burden off property tax payers.”

Alderman Ashanti Hamilton was one of eight alders who voted "no," citing community protesters' concerns about police as the most important factor in their decision.

Hamilton wanted commitments to improve response times and have a reckless driving reduction plan as stipulations to accept the money.

“We have a responsibility to both those people who are organizing in the street," Hamilton said. "We’ve also heard from members of the community who are demanding a safe community.”

Brunson said those stipulations will be a challenge with less officers, but he is willing to work on them.

“I have been willing, my successor of course will be willing to work with community groups, the common council, whomever, to improve policing."

The council voted 8-6 against the measure, with Alderwoman Chantia Lewis abstaining. Two "no" votes would have to flip to "yes" in order to accept the funds. The next vote will take place Jan 19.

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