Milwaukee Common Council rejects $9.7M federal grant to fund 30 police officers

NOW: Milwaukee Common Council rejects $9.7M federal grant to fund 30 police officers

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Common Council voted to reject a nearly $10 million federal grant on Tuesday, Dec. 15 that would have paid for more than two dozen police officers. However, the battle to fund those positions is not finished.

During a meeting Tuesday morning, the Common Council voted 9-6 not to accept the $9.7 million federal COPS grant, would have paid for 30 Milwaukee police officers for three years.

Later in the meeting, Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd asked the council to reconsider the vote next month. If the decision stands, the Milwaukee Police Department would lose 150 officer positions gradually over the course of next year, instead of the 120 already cut by Mayor Tom Barrett due to budget constraints.

Council members who voted to reject the money say national discussions about policing are forcing them to make tough decisions.

"We are in an era where policing as we know it has to change. Policing as we are accustomed has to be tweaked," said Alderwoman Chantia Lewis.

The department said in a statement: "In the event the City of Milwaukee Common Council declines the $10 million, no match COPS Hiring Program grant, the Milwaukee Police Department’s sworn strength will be reduced by an additional 30 officers, resulting in a total loss of the funding of 210 officers over a two-year period. Ultimately, the community receives the level of policing service that it and its representatives demand. The Milwaukee Police Department will continue its mission to provide first-rate services based on the resources it is allocated. We thank the countless community members, block watch captains, BID executive directors and elected officials who have supported this grant."

Barrett said turning down federal money now will make it harder to ask for state and federal help in the future.

"Here we are in a year where we are seeing a record number of homicides, where reckless driving is a serious problem throughout this community, where we are seeing break-ins and robberies. And our council is saying, 'No, we don't want that money,'" Barrett said.

He said he understands the need for "philosophical battles," but he does not want to see increased response times on low-priority calls.

"Who is this going to hurt? It's going to hurt those residents of this city who are calling police and want someone to come to their house because they've had a garage break-in or because there's been an armed robbery," Barrett said.

During the council meeting, Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic said: "We might not even want (police) responding to low-priority calls. We might want other people, other civilians."

Alderman Ashanti Hamilton proposed putting seven stipulations on the police department in exchange for the council voting to accept the money. One of the conditions was improving officer response times.

"The only reason that we're having this discussion about a grant that we have received numerous times before with unanimous support is because the time period that we're in is requiring us to demand more and to request more from those that have that responsibility of enforcing the law," Hamilton said.

Hamilton withdrew his amendment with the stipulations after Milwaukee Acting Police Chief Michael Brunson said they would be difficult to accomplish with fewer officers.

"Obviously any chief and the new chief not withstanding will have that goal to reduce response times. Absolutely. But that's going to be a big challenge with less personnel," Brunson said.

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