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Monday, January 28, 2013

Is Sheriff Clarke's "Safety Message" a Walker Budget Alarm?

BND Excerpt:
With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. But are you prepared?” -- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr.

If there is any truth to Sheriff Clarke's statement about public safety in Scott Walker's Wisconsin, he could be the canary in the mine.

And, if we could ignore much of Sheriff Clarke's long history of temper tantrums and political scapegoating, his recent so-called "safety message" sounds more like a budget problem than anything else. Sure, he fear mongered it into a gun issue and a call for vigilantism, but that's merely a very wrong solution to what is potentially a real and growing problem.

To explain I'll go back to August of 2011.

JS Online Excerpt : (Aug. 3, 2011)
The new state budget has pushed Milwaukee County more than $21  million deeper into a fiscal hole, increasing the chances that massive service cuts could be needed to fill the gap, a nonpartisan local think tank says in a report being released Wednesday.

Nearly every community has been economically wracked by Scott Walker. Remember Walker's Act 10 budget didn't take effect until he signed it into law on June 29, 2011. In order to make balance under that large of a shortfall, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele proposed to cut more than $14 million and 240 positions from the sheriff’s office. Abele's rationale for cutting the Sheriff's Department was that the office doesn’t do much. That might sound rough, but there's some truth to that.

PolitiFact Excerpt:
"For example, in 2009 the sheriff reported only 12 crimes to the FBI, compared to 41,000 for the City of Milwaukee and 3,200 for West Allis, and even 242 for the UWM Police Department." -- MKE County Executive Chris Abele

The general idea behind Abele's statement was that although the sheriff’s office runs jails, patrols freeways and provides other law enforcement services, it essentially plays the smallest role involving direct public contact of all the local police agencies operating within the same jurisdiction.

No question, Chris Abele appears to have plenty of issues on the table, but the cuts he was forced to make to the Sheriff's office under Act 10 appear to be sound. Outside of making the tough cuts nearly every Wisconsin community continues to face under Walker, the biggest problem Milwaukee County had was an additional burden no other county in the state shared - it had Scott Walker as its chief executive before he became governor. That meant most Wisconsin counties were not stripped of their flexibility to reduce costs when faced with drastic cuts due to Act 10.

JS Online Excerpt: (Aug. 3, 2011)
But that doesn't hold true for Milwaukee County, where Walker already had built about $17 million in benefit cost reductions into the 2010 and 2011 county budgets that he drew up as county executive, the policy forum says in its preview of the challenges for officials crafting the 2012 county budget.

You've heard of folks complaining about being double-taxed? Think of it in those terms for MKE County, but instead they were double-cut of their operational funds.

Remember, we're still in the year 2011 here.

JS Online Excerpt: (Nov.20,2011)
Layoffs of 61 Milwaukee County deputies - 17% of the entire force - will mean slower response times to reports of bus violence, fewer lakefront patrols in summer and fewer bailiffs for courtroom security, Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. says. The layoffs also may cut the number of deputies on freeway patrol, one of the sheriff's primary duties. And it could force more overtime, cutting into any savings the layoffs were intended to create, he said. "It's going to have a negative and adverse impact on public safety," Clarke said.

Clearly, this is a budget issue according to Clarke and to be fair, he is bringing up the safety issues that almost every law enforcement official would expect under the same circumstances.

Just for comparison, the Janesville Police Department has somewhere around 100 officers. If its police chief was forced to cut 17 officers, I would imagine their would be an immediate plea for new revenue or a warning of a serious reduction in public safety and police service. That's just the way things are. So I can't blame Clarke for his apparent concern for safety. Unfortunately for Clarke, there is a matter of his politics.

JS Online Excerpt: (Nov.20,2011)
"Every division I have is going to have to take a hit. I'm not whining about it. That's the reality." The sheriff said he would work to minimize the impact of the cut, but he criticized County Executive Chris Abele, saying he made cuts without understanding their impact. "He had no idea what he was doing," Clarke said. "That told me he didn't care."

That's where things start running off the rails. For some reason, Clarke appears willing to accept Walker's budget dictum, "that's the reality," without whining about it, but won't give Abele the same courtesy? I also found it hard to justify Clarke's thought process accusing Abele of not knowing what he is doing as the basis to assume Abele doesn't care. One doesn't qualify the other. If you believe someone don't know what they're doing, "not caring" is simply no longer part of the equation.

It does appear that Clarke is projecting his anger for Walker's budget cuts by making irrational statements against Chris Abele and anyone else who is part of the administrative chain.

Now that Walker's budget cuts have started having an effect on public safety, Clarke never took responsibility or requested a county referendum to increase revenue for the Sheriff's Department. Instead he opens up with more accusations and fear-mongering at everyone except Gov. Scott Walker.

Marquette Tribune Excerpt:
“Mayor Barrett’s furloughing of police officers, who are already losing the battle to keep up with responding to calls for service in a timely fashion and provide an effective, consistent, visible presence in neighborhoods, has clearly demonstrated how little he values them when he lumped them in with every other city employee,” Clarke said in a statement released on Sept. 28. At the news conference, Barrett and Abele called the idea an example of county-city cooperation that would result in better service at a lower cost for taxpayers. Clarke said in the statement that Milwaukee residents would not benefit from nor be harmed by the plan. “Chief Flynn yesterday indicated that his officers are already patrolling county parks, and that is correct under our mutual agreement,” Clarke said in his statement. “Maybe that is why they don’t have more time to patrol my and many other neighborhoods while burglars, drug dealers, gangs, car thieves and armed robbers are feasting on city residents.”

Sure, everyone is to blame in Clarke's political world but himself and Scott Walker.

Sheriff Clarke sounds like a irrelevant gun crazy law enforcement officer who may have picked up a handsome check from the NRA for his twisted public safety message, but he did raise the alarm for worsening public safety in Wisconsin resulting from government budget cuts. Those are his words, laid off and furloughed. Unless someone can convince me that communities, school districts, roads and law enforcement agencies are budget cutting and not asking for more revenue to make ends meet under Walker's Act 10, I consider his alarm legitimate, but not his solution.

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