Thursday, July 7, 2022
Thursday, July 7, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Milwaukee Police Officer Positions Plummet 18% as City Leaders Decimate MPD

Response times for most priority calls have jumped.

Milwaukee city leaders are systematically decimating the Milwaukee Police Department. We requested the number of sworn officers from MPD, and they show that the force has decreased by hundreds of officers – nearly 18% – since 1995 (and 4.5% from 2019 to 2020). The number of sworn officers is the lowest in at least 25 years.

That revelation comes as the City of Milwaukee Common Council rejected a $10 million grant that would have funded 30 additional police officers despite historically high homicide numbers, plunging clearance rates and longer response times as the strength of the force has been whittled away for years by city leaders. The Council is set to reconsider the grant on Jan. 19.

The fact that the number of sworn officers has already shrank considerably since the mid-1990s has been lost in the debate raging over “defunding” the Milwaukee Police Department. The department has already been defunded, through both purposeful cuts and attrition that’s not countered with enough new recruits. And it’s about to get much, much worse. Indeed, it’s plausible that, due to resignations and retirements – and no recruit classes – the department’s strength could be close to half the size it was in 1995 within three years.

There’s no recruit class planned at all for 2021, says Milwaukee Police Association President Dale Bormann, Jr. “There will be no classes in 2021,” he said. “And we will not have additional classes in the next few years.”

He said, “The refusal of the Common Council to hire officers and put them in the academy does not only hurt the police force. It hurts the citizens of Milwaukee. Not having these officers going through the academy will increase response time. Citizens will have to wait extra time before an officer responds to an assignment.” He said that retirements are increasing on top of it. “People aren’t sticking around anymore. They’re like forget this, I’m leaving.”

The city says 371 MPD officers will be eligible for retirement in the next three years. Bormann says about 180 officers will be eligible to retire by the end of 2021. The mayor continues to cut positions (120 through attrition in his next budget).

The city’s budget director told aldermen that the city’s force is projected to decline over the next three years already. “If the (COPS grant) award is not accepted, the budgeted sworn strength will fall by 30 officers to 1,652,” he said in a memo. A chart he gave aldermen shows the force strength could drop to 1,432 by 2023.

According to a letter to the community from Bormann Jr., the city expects to lose 450-600 officers through attrition over the next four years. “The 2021 proposed budget reduces police strength by 120 officers, or -6.7%. It is also a reduction of -10.9% from 2017 strength levels,” says the budget director’s letter to aldermen.

All of this doesn’t consider the fact that there are even fewer officers on the streets than the numbers show because of COVID-19 absences.

In 1995, the force had 2,130 sworn officers; in 2020, it had 1,750 a month ago, a number already depleted further by additional retirements and vacancies. Although defunding police advocates often point to the cost of city pensions and benefits and blame loss of shared revenue from the state and Gov. Walker’s decision not to include police unions in Act 10, budgets are ultimately about choices, and fewer officers on the street has been the practical result, whoever is assigned blame. The declining number of officers also sets up a scenario where the department needs to use overtime because of short staffing at a cost to taxpayers (it was budgeted for more than $17 million in overtime in 2020).

The bottom line is there are fewer boots on the ground already at a time that defunding the police advocates and some city officials want there to be even fewer of them.

Numbers from the Milwaukee Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, paint an even bleaker current picture – they say when vacancies are considered and supervisors from sergeant and above are removed from the totals (because they don’t all regularly hit the streets), the actual number of officers on the streets in 2020 was about 1,517, not the 1,750 provided by MPD.

Let’s take a look at what’s happened to the force over the years. We obtained these numbers from the Milwaukee Police Department; they represent sworn officers only (not civilian employees).


1995 – 2,130

1996 – 2,176

1997 – 2,150

1998 – 2,094

1999 – 2,051

2000 – 1,984

2001 – 1,961

2002 – 1,975

2003 – 1,948

2004 – 2,008

2005 – 1,962

2006 – 1,986

2007 – 2,041

2008 – 1,994

2009 – 1,940

2010 – 1,924

2011 – 1,887

2012 – 1,890

2013 – 1,841

2014 – 1,915

2015 – 1,916

2016 – 1,923

2017 – 1,853

2018 – 1,917

2019 – 1,832

2020 – 1,750

What will that mean for the City of Milwaukee’s residents? Lower clearance rates and higher response times are already occurring, especially with some detective positions unfilled; furthermore, studies have found that more police reduces violent crime.

The clearance rate in the City of Milwaukee has dropped substantially in 2020. We obtained these numbers from MPD:

2015 – 147 homicides, 85 homicides cleared (58%)
2016 – 142 homicides, 95 homicides cleared (67%)
2017 – 119 homicides, 93 homicides cleared (78%)
2018 – 99 homicides, 75 homicides cleared (76%)
2019 – 97 homicides, 75 homicides cleared (77%)
2020 – 190 homicides, 104 homicides cleared (55%)

In addition, response times for almost all calls have jumped from 2019 to 2020:

Milwaukee police officer positions

The city of Milwaukee’s crime heyday was previously in the early 1990s. The city passed the historic record for the most homicides in the history of Milwaukee on Nov. 5, 2020. In the 1990s, there was a general recognition that policing could mitigate crime; now the rhetoric at City Hall is virulently anti-police. To be sure, many things affect crime rates, but force strength is a factor too little discussed in Milwaukee as people worry about response times and homicide numbers.

The city has systematically reduced the MPD’s number of sworn officers through 1-3% decreases most years since 1995 but the trends have escalated recently, with 4% declines in three of the last four years.

In 2020, according to MPD numbers provided to WRN, the MPD is down 380 officers.

How big of a deal is that? Before former Chief Alfonso Morales was demoted (a demotion reversed by a judge), MPD tweeted, “Losing 375 officers is the equivalent of shutting down District 5, District 7 and Sensitive Crimes. #DidYouKnow.” That tweet wasn’t in reaction to the historical declines but rather a new proposal by aldermen to cut the force further. Soon, Morales was gone in a process a judge said was so flawed he wasn’t even allowed to talk or learn the accusations against him. The city has had two acting chiefs since that time, and a deadlocked process to pick a permanent chief.

We asked the MPA and MPD for the numbers because we remembered the era when the force size was much larger.

Here are the numbers from the Milwaukee Police Association. They only count officers in the MPA, so they don’t count the command staff, sergeants and above, who are in the supervisors’ union. In the chart, authorized numbers mean the number of sworn officers allowed by the city. Actual numbers mean the actual number of rank-and-file officers below sergeant.

Milwaukee police officer positions
Mpa chart of mpa members

In addition, the 173 vacancies in the MPA tally sheet are the highest number since at least 2010. In addition, the 1,517 figure was as of November 2020; according to Bormann, Jr., a number of people have retired and left since then, plunging the number of sworn officers below sergeant level into the 1400s. There are also shortages due to COVID-19 leaves.

It’s a National Trend

How does this fit into a national context? A 2018 Princeton University study analyzed the effects of COPS grants to answer the question of whether more cops correlates with fewer crimes. They found it does. The effect was most pronounced on robbery, larceny, and auto theft, “with suggestive evidence that police reduce murders as well.” The author found that “consistent with the existing literature, I find that violent crime is more responsive than property crime to increases in police force size.” In its literature review, the study found, “Quasi-experimental studies typically document that police reduce crime, although estimated magnitudes vary widely.” Here’s another study on COPS grants finding similarly.

Other studies have found evidence more police reduce crime, although the research on the question is conflicting and not settled. Methodologies have been questioned, and the reasons for crime increases are complicated and tough to tease out. Studies have found that proactive policing can reduce crime, and a short-staffed police department going from priority to priority call can’t as effectively do proactive policing. Obviously, things like policing strategies also matter and the socio-economic health of the community.

A 2016 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the overall number of full-time officers in the United States increased from 1992 to 2008. That trend has reversed.

A 2019 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police pointed out that the “raw number of law enforcement jobs” in the U.S.  doesn’t tell the full story: “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics…a more considerable growth in U.S. population has actually led to a slow decline in the ratio of residents to police officers.” Seventy-eight percent of agencies surveyed by the IACP reported having trouble recruiting qualified candidates.

A 2019 Police Executive Research Forum report found that, “most law enforcement agencies are sensing a crisis in their ability to recruit new officers, and to hold on to the ones they have…Fewer people are applying to become police officers, and more people are leaving the profession, often after only a few years on the job.”

According to PERF, “the number of full-time employees in law enforcement is declining. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of full-time sworn officers dropped 3.2 percent, from approximately 725,000 officers to 701,000, ending a period of steady increases from 1997 to 2013.”

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Maine’s ban on state tuition assistance to students attending religious schools in an education case that could have big implications for schools around the country.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Carson v. Makin.

The dispute began when the state of Maine created a tuition assistance program for rural areas without public schools. The program, though, explicitly said that state funds could not be used at religious private schools, only secular schools.

A family sued the state of Maine saying they should be able to use the state funding at a religious school if they desired. They argued the program discriminates against religious schools and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court sided with the challengers to Maine’s law Tuesday.

“Maine’s program cannot survive strict scrutiny,” the court’s ruling says. “A neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause. Maine’s decision to continue excluding religious schools from its tuition assistance program after Zelman thus promotes stricter separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires. But a State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”

The high court pointed to Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, a 2016 ruling where the court sided with a religious school that was denied state grant funding assistance for a playground improvement because it was religious.

“The Department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status,” the court ruled in that case. “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.”

As The Center Square previously reported, critics of Maine’s anti-religious school provision also pointed to Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, a Supreme Court case in 2020 in which the high court ruled in favor of a similar Montana program, saying students could receive state funds for education at a religious school.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent. In the dissent, Breyer said the majority gave too little credence to the establishment clause and too much to the free exercise clause.

“The Court today pays almost no attention to the words in the first Clause while giving almost exclusive attention to the words in the second. The majority also fails to recognize the ‘play in the joints’ between the two Clauses," Breyer wrote.

Religious liberty advocates celebrated the ruling.

“We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Counsel’s president and chief Counsel. “Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government. This is a great day for religious liberty in America.”

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The lawmakers sent a letter this week to Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee asking for a hearing on the issue where Mayorkas could come back for questioning.

“We write to request you convene a hearing with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas as soon as possible to answer critical questions about apparently misleading testimony before the Committee on May 4 on the Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board (the Board),” the letter said. “We are deeply concerned that documents recently obtained by Senators Josh Hawley and Chuck Grassley contradict the Secretary’s testimony and public statements about the Board.”

This kerfuffle is the latest in a string of disputes around the board, not the least of which included Nina Jankowicz’ resignation from leading the board after controversial social media videos surfaced.

The Republican senators published the DHS documents online purporting to show documented evidence that Mayorkas misrepresented the purpose of the board.

“Responding to a question from a reporter ‘Will American citizens be monitored?’ Secretary Mayorkas responded unequivocally ‘No,’ adding that ‘We at the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens,’” the letter said. “He went on to suggest the Board would be concentrating on foreign threats – ’addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries [and] from the cartels.’ Yet talking points prepared by Ms. Jankowicz, the Board’s then–Executive Director appear to show that the Department does in fact monitor American citizens and that the Board’s work is concentrated on domestic threats.”

The documents also give evidence that the federal agency has been working on the disinformation board longer than Mayorkas let on in his testimony.

“At the May 4 hearing, Secretary Mayorkas testified that the Board ‘has not yet begun its work,’” the letter said. “Yet the documents indicate the Secretary had stood up the Board on February 24, 2022 – more than two months earlier. The Board’s charter, signed by the Secretary, required the Board meet ‘regularly’ and ‘no less than once per quarter.’ Another document dated only six days before Secretary Mayorkas appeared before the Committee provides preparatory materials for a meeting between Under Secretary for Policy Robert Silvers and Twitter. The document was prepared by Ms. Nina Jankowicz in her capacity as ‘Executive Director DHS Disinformation Governance Board,’ clearly evidencing that the Board had already begun its work.”

After the board was announced, critics quickly raised concerns about its implications for free speech and the Constitution.

“Any regime with an organized disinformation effort directed at its own people is one that is moving away from self-government and toward state control of the most basic aspects of liberty,” said Matthew Spalding, Constitutional expert and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government for Hillsdale College.

Now, the lawmakers are calling for a hearing, but whether that hearing will actually happen remains to be seen.

“The American public deserves transparency and honest answers to important questions about the true nature and purpose of the Disinformation Governance Board and it is clear that Secretary Mayorkas has not provided them – to the public or this Committee,” the letter said. “Therefore, we request you hold a hearing with Secretary Mayorkas and join us in insisting that all records related to the Board be provided to the Committee prior to the hearing.”

Sen. Peter’s office and the DHS did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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U.S. Customs and Border Patrol published official data Thursday for apprehensions and encounters May: the highest monthly total in recorded U.S. history of 239,416.

CBP published the data after The Center Square published preliminary numbers received from a Border Patrol agent.

Official numbers include both Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations data of people entering the U.S. illegally at all ports of entry.

Despite President Joe Biden, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and CBP Chief Chris Magnus arguing that the border is closed, that Title 42 is being enforced, and that it is complying with the Remain in Mexico policy, more people entered the U.S. illegally in May 2022 than an any month recorded in U.S. history.

And the numbers are only going up.

In April, CBP reported 235,478 total encounters/apprehensions; in March, 222,239; in February, 165,902; in January, 154,816.

The last two months alone equals roughly the size of the population of Montana.

The southern border sectors that saw the most traffic last month, as in nearly all months, were in Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio sectors.

The numbers are broken down by BP sector and categories, including apprehensions, turn backs, non-violations, outstanding, no-arrests, got aways (known/recorded), and deceased. Here are the numbers based on the preliminary data obtained by The Center Square.

RGV Sector

Apps - 46,527TBs - 4,284Got Aways (known/recorded) - 4,378Unresolved Detection - 133No Arrest - 2,887Deceased - 15Non-violation - 261Outstanding - 18

Del Rio Sector

Apps - 45,662TBs - 193Got Aways (known/recorded) - 15,006Unresolved Detection - 168No Arrest - 3,736Deceased -26Non-violation -176Outstanding -58

Yuma Sector

Apps - 36,568TBs - 204Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,007Unresolved Detection - 20No Arrest - 62Deceased - 9Non-violation -54Outstanding - 63

El Paso Sector

Apps - 35,650TBs - 3,104Got Aways (known/recorded) - 9,856Unresolved Detection - 31No Arrest - 225Deceased -0Non-violation -104Outstanding -25

Tucson Sector

Apps - 27,554TBs - 995Got Aways (known/recorded) - 18,612Unresolved Detection - 1,655No Arrest - 3,344Deceased - 12Non-violation - 202Outstanding - 399

San Diego Sector

Apps - 17,797TBs - 756Got Aways (known/recorded) -5,437Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5,301Deceased - 1Non-violation - 7Outstanding - 150

Laredo Sector

Apps - 12,297TBs - 2,601Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,113Unresolved Detection - 45No Arrest - 1,134Deceased - 11Non-violation - 246Outstanding - 0

El Centro Sector

Apps - 7,264TBs - 407Got Aways (known/recorded) - 679Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5Deceased - 0Non-violation - 2Outstanding - 5

Big Bend Sector

Apps - 3,309TBs - 54Got Aways (known/recorded) - 1,521Unresolved Detection - 41No Arrest - 184Deceased - 5Non-violation - 22Outstanding - 69

Apprehensions include those in the U.S. illegally who surrender or are caught by BP officers. Turn backs include those who entered illegally but returned to Mexico.

The categories of "no arrests" and "unresolved detection" aren’t part of 6 U.S. Code, which classifies how encounters are to be reported. These categories are used as a way to lower the number of got-aways being reported, the BP officer says.

No arrests mean someone “was detected in a non-border zone and their presence didn’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the official internal tracking system definition used by agents to record data. "Unresolved detection" means the same thing, but the officers, for a range of reasons, couldn’t determine citizenship.

Non-violations are “deemed to have committed no infraction and don’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the tracking system definition.

The categories of non-violations, no arrests and unresolved detection should actually be categorized as got-aways, the BP officer says, assuming all non-arrests were of non-citizens.

Preliminary data in other sectors show more than 1,600 people were apprehended in May, with Miami apprehending the most.

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(The Center Square) – There are new questions about who is running public schools in Wisconsin following the release of emails between Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s largest teachers’ union.

Empower Wisconsin on Wednesday broke a story showing the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, was in regular contact with Gov. Evers’ office about the plan to reopen schools back in the summer of 2020.

“We at WEAC are getting pressure from the Senate Democrats to take a position on these bills from the School Administrators Alliance. We have been told the Senate Dems are working with the Governor’s office on a strategy relating to opening of schools,” wrote WEAC lobbyist Jack O’Meara in an August 21, 2020 email to Evers’ office.

The report doesn’t include Evers’ response, but the governor eventually told local schools to make their own decisions about reopening. WEAC encouraged local schools to stay closed in the fall of 2020.

Republican candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch on Wednesday ripped what she characterized as collusion between Evers and WEAC.

“Wisconsin needs a governor who spends time prioritizing kids and listening to parents, unlike Tony Evers who lets union bosses decide when to lock kids out of classrooms,” Kleefisch said in a statement.

Kleefisch, like the other two Republicans running for governor, have made it clear they support parental involvement in public school policies, and strongly support school choice for families across the state.

“Wisconsin parents deserve choices for their kids’ educations. We will no longer accept the backward one-size-fits-all educational monopoly that Evers and his union boss allies support,” Kleefisch added. “As governor, I will enact universal school choice and continue to support parents taking back control of their school boards.”

Wisconsin’s local-decision school reopening policy allowed some schools to open quickly in the 2020-2021 school year, and allowed others like Milwaukee and Madison schools to remain closed for the entire school year.

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The Federal Reserve announced a 0.75 percentage point rate hike Wednesday to help combat soaring inflation, the largest rate increase since 1994.

The Fed said it raised the rates "to 1‑1/2 to 1-3/4 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate."

"The committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2% over the longer run," the Federal Reserve said in a statement. "In addition, the committee will continue reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities, as described in the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet that were issued in May. The committee is strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective."

The decision is expected to curb inflation, but that comes at a cost to the economy. Federal data shows consumer prices have risen at the fastest rate in decades and producer prices spiked 10.8% in the last year.

"Overall economic activity appears to have picked up after edging down in the first quarter," the Federal Reserve said in its announcement. "Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures."

The Federal Reserve pointed to COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine when referencing the nation's economic difficulties. Experts have acknowledged those issues but also point to a major spike in the U.S. money supply and federal debt spending.

"Since early 2020, the Federal Reserve has printed nearly $5 trillion — using much of this to purchase government debt in addition to mortgage backed securities and other assets," said Joel Griffith, an economic expert at the Heritage Foundation, as the Center Square previously reported. "As this cash was injected into the economy, total money supply swelled by more than $75,000 per family of four. The Federal Reserve's complicity in financing Congress' outrageous spending spree of the past two years is largely to blame for the sky-high inflation, the new housing bubble, and rampant speculation [in] the financial markets."