By Gretchen Schuldt
The cost to counties to incarcerate juveniles at the Lincoln Hills / Copper Lakes youth prison would soar almost 50% by June 2023 and hit an annual cost of $299,300, according to the Department of Corrections budget request submitted this week.
In a document largely of meaningful explanatory text, DOC justifies the requested increase in a single sentence: "Rates reflecting the cost of care in juvenile correctional institutions are set in statute and updated each biennium."
The request comes as an agreement to close the scandal-plagued Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake facilities is teetering.
Lincoln Hills is for boys; Copper Lake is for girls. As of Friday, there were 68 boys held at Lincoln Hills and four girls at Copper Lake, according to DOC population figures.
The state now charges counties $550 per day to house juvenile offenders at the secure facilities, the state's only juvenile prisons of their type. That amount is scheduled to increase to $615 per day on Jan. 1. The DOC's 2021-23 budget request seeks to increase that to $803 per day on July 1, 2021 and $820 per day on July 1, 2022.
That would increase the annual cost of holding a single juvenile at the facility from $200,750 at the current daily rate to $299,300, an increase of $98,500.
Overall, the department is seeking a budget hike of 4.5%, or $126.5 million over the biennium, from $2.8 billion to $2.92 billion, according to the budget request. The budget assumes an average daily incarcerated population of about 23,205 adults and 102 juveniles, according to budget documents.
The budget request also includes increases of:
By Gretchen Schuldt
The number of positive coronavirus cases continues to surge in Wisconsin state prisons and on Friday was up 70% since Aug. 21, when case numbers started their steep climb.
There were 907 positive coronavirus cases in the prison system as of Friday, Sept. 11, up 373 since Aug. 21, when there were 534 cases.
The number Friday was up 75, or 9%, from a week earlier, when there were 832 recorded cases, according to Department of Corrections figures. The biggest one-week increases were at Dodge Correctional Institution (up 39, to 119) and Racine Correctional Institution (up 25, to 109).
There also have been 244 positive coronavirus cases of DOC staff members.
David Liners, state director of WISDOM, a state social justice organization, urged members of the public Monday to contact their legislators about the crisis.
"Help us get the governor's attention," he said in an email.
WISDOM in July recommended that Gov. Tony Evers take several actions to reduce prison populations including:
"As of Sept. 14, he has not done anything," Liners wrote. "He has not even made a single public statement of his concern."
Meanwhile, a person incarcerated in a facility with an outbreak attributed it, at least in part, to a coronavirus-infected person who was transferred there.
"He was not tested prior to being moved here..." the inmate wrote. "He has been on this unit infecting people. This young man was asymptomatic. Last night they moved the young man back to...quarantine. However, the man the kid was in with was not placed on quarantine. He was left on the unit to possibly infect more people here...."
He continued: "There is no further testing going to be done. The HSU (Health Services Unit) is doing temperature checks and asking if the person is experiencing symptoms. So if the inmate does not-self report because he doesn't want to go to quarantine, there is no way for them to know in a timely manner and in the case of the young man, who was asymptomatic, the temperature checks would not have revealed anything. So the long and short of it is that there is no way they can stop the spread with the current level of 'health' care the prison is providing."
WJI is not naming the institution to protect the identities of the writer.
Institutions still reporting no cases are Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills School, Flambeau Correctional Center, Fox Lake Correctional Institution, Grow Academy, John C. Burke Correctional Center, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, McNaughton Correctional Center, Oakhill Correctional Institution, Oshkosh Correctional Institution, Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution, Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center, Sanger B. Powers Correctional Center, Stanley Correctional Institution, Taycheedah Correctional Institution, Thompson Correctional Center, Winnebago Correctional Center, and Wisconsin Secure Program Facility.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The number of positive coronavirus cases in the state prison system jumped by 56%, in just two weeks, Department of Corrections figures show.
There were 534 positive cases on Aug. 21 and 832 cases on Friday, Sept. 4, an increase of 298, the figures show.
The largest increase was recorded at Green Bay Correctional Institution. There were 185 incarcerated men who tested positive as of Aug. 21 and 270 positives on Friday, up 85.
Other significant increases were recorded at the Racine Correctional Institution (up 66, from 18 to 84), Dodge Correctional Institution (up 55, from 25 to 80), New Lisbon Correctional Institution (up 41, from 8 to 49), Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution (up 30, from 7 to 37), and the Milwaukee Women's Center, up 17, from 3 to 20.
"For a while I was at least able to say the staff here is at least keeping us fed but things have gotten so bad that today everything came to a head!!" one Green Bay inmate wrote. For the past week here they've trying to feed us old moldy food and the portions are literally the size of two spoons!!"
"Yesterday our dinner was four crackers and three meat balls, I mean literally that was our dinner!!" he said. "Today they gave us a small Styrofoam bowl of soup and two pieces of bread, I'm sad to say the prison turned into an insane asylum!! Guys got so fed up that they were throwing their food out of their cells at the walls and they were kicking the doors and screaming at the top of their lungs so for a good three hours...and staff refused to come around so there was food dripping off the walls and actually there still is food dripping off the walls because they refuse to come clean it up!!"
And another Green Bay inmate wrote: "For lunch yesterday we got a Styrofoam tray with an ice cream scoop's worth of 'chicken salad' and four ounces of peas. That's it. This is becoming the norm now. When inmates write to the kitchen about they are told it is within nutritional standards. At breakfast today we got a small bowl of cereal and a small piece (approx. 2"x 2") of 'coffee cake' An object that can only be described as being related to 'hardtack.'"
"People are getting sick and not being removed from general population."
While religious volunteers and family visitors are not allowed in the prison because of the pandemic, contractors are inside installing cameras, the inmate said. The contractors are not social distancing themselves from those incarcerated, he said.
As for those sick, he said, "They quarantine only those who develop extreme symptoms that needs direct medical attention. The dorm alone has over 60 infected people, which will be a matter of time before the entire dorm is infected."
"We are hungry and tired," another inmate wrote. "People are getting sick and not being removed from general population. According to staff there is no room to house them separately. But somehow they're finding a way to clear out 16 cells at a time to put in new sinks and toilets."
By Gretchen Schuldt
It was not improper for a judge to comment during a sentencing hearing on the changes he saw in people when they possess guns, the State Court of Appeals has ruled.
The unsigned opinion by a District I Court of Appeals panel upholds a post-conviction ruling by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Carolina Stark denying Octavia W. Dodson's request for resentencing for second-degree intentional homicide.
Dodson alleged that then-Circuit Judge M. Joseph Donald considered an improper factor – legal gun ownership – during the sentencing.
Donald now is a judge on the State Court of Appeals.
Dodson argued that Donald believed him to be "a threat to society and had a ‘distorted view of the world’ because he was a lawful gun owner.”
The appeals panel disagreed.
"When viewed in context...the trial court’s comments about Dodson’s unlawful use of his firearm were not improper," the judges said. "The trial court never stated, explicitly or implicitly, that it was basing its sentence on the fact that Dodson chose to exercise his right, as the holder of a concealed carry permit, to carry a concealed weapon."
The panel included Judges William W. Brash III, Brian W. Blanchard, and Timothy G. Dugan.
Dodson did not have a criminal record before he shot Deshun T. Freeman to death after being rear-ended in his car on March 25, 2016.
After the he was rear-ended, Dodson saw the other car involved, a Buick, back up. Dodson drew a semi-automatic handgun from its holster and the Buick left the scene. Dodson drove after it so he could, he said, get a license plate number.
As he drove, he switched out the gun's 10-round magazine for an extended 17-rounder, according to the decision.
Dodson eventually saw a car he thought was the one that hit him. Both cars parked on the side of the street. Dodson said a man got out of the Buick and ran toward him. Dodson later said he thought the man was pulling something out of his pockets or from under his shirt. Dodson, now standing outside his car, shot him – evidence indicated Dodson fired six times – then drove to his girlfriend's house, according to the decision. They talked, and Dodson drove to his father's house, calling 911 on the way.
Police were unable to confirm that the car driven by Freeman was involved in the accident.
Dodson pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional homicide and Donald sentenced him to 14 years in prison and six years of extended supervision, longer than the term recommended in a pre-sentence report, which was five to nine years in prison followed by a five-to-six-year term of extended supervision.
"In reviewing this case, I have to say I am completely baffled as to why this happened," Donald said during the sentencing hearing. "And I don’t think that there is any rational way of trying to explain it. I can tell you this, Mr. Dodson, that in my experience as a judge, I have seen over time how individuals when they are possessing a firearm, how that in some way changes them."
He continued: "It changes how they view the world. It changes how they react and respond to people. I know that this is only speculation on my part, but I do strongly feel that the day that you applied for that concealed carry permit and went out and purchased that firearm, and that extended magazine, (whatever) your rational beliefs for possessing it, whether you felt the need to somehow arm yourself and protect yourself from essentially the crime that is going on in this community, I think on that day set in motion this circumstance."
Later, Donald added it was "clear to me that you were operating under some misguided belief, some distorted view of the world that somehow Deshun Freeman was a threat to you when in reality it was nothing further from the truth.”
Dodson appealed, seeking resentencing.
Dodson contended Donald blamed him "not merely for the homicide, but for what the court viewed as putting himself on a path toward violence by lawfully obtaining a gun and a license to carry it. This assumption violated Mr. Dodson’s Second Amendment right to possess the firearm.”
Dodson also alleged that Donald made assumptions about gun owners and attributed negative beliefs he had about gun owners to Dodson.
The panel, in upholding Donald and Stark, wrote, "We are not persuaded that the trial court’s comments suggested that the trial court was punishing Dodson for exercising his Second Amendment rights. Here, the trial court’s comments indicate that it, like the parties, was trying to make sense of what appeared to be a senseless homicide committed by someone without a criminal history. The trial court noted that in its experience as a judge, people can change as a result of owning guns. Such an observation was not improper."
By Gretchen Schuldt
Municipalities would be required to maintain police funding at current levels or lose state aid, under a package of police-related bills to be introduced by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).
The requirement would have a devastating impact on local governments that are under enormous economic stress because of revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Tony Evers called the Legislature into session on Monday to consider his nine-bill police reform package. Wanggard responded Thursday by announcing eight police-related bills of his own. State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) is a co-sponsor on all eight bills and Rep. Janel Brandtjen, (R-Menomonee Falls) is a co-sponsor of a bill dealing with the make-up and operation of Milwaukee and Madison fire and police commissions, according to the Racine County Eye.
Below are the Legislative Reference Bureau's summaries of the Wanggaard bills.
Bill 1: This bill creates an independent use of force review advisory board. Under the bill, the board conducts independent investigations of deaths and serious injuries to law enforcement officers and deaths and serious injuries to others resulting from an action or omission of a law enforcement officer. The board must recommend measures to reduce the probabilities of deaths and serious injuries from similar causes and must also review its previous recommendations to determine if they were implemented and evaluate their effectiveness.
Under the bill, if the board conducts an investigation of an incident involving an officer that resulted in death or a serious injury, its investigation may begin only after any mandatory or criminal investigation concludes. The bill grants the board access to all complete criminal and administrative investigation case files, models or renderings used in an investigation, and evidence and also to the state crime laboratories. The board must acquire experts and use advisors as needed to perform its duties; the experts and advisors include a certified firearms instructor, a defensive and arrest tactics instructor, an expert in cultural competency, a master instructor in professional communications, a master instructor in tactical response, a victim advocate, and a mental health professional.
When the board completes an investigation, it must prepare an advisory report to be made public and be submitted to the legislature, all law enforcement agencies, and the Law Enforcement Standards Board. The report must identify events or developments that led to the officer-involved death or serious injury and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future. The report must provide demographic information about each incident, share best practices used by law enforcement officers, and recommend practices that the board learns when exercising its review.
Note: The makeup of the board would be heavily weighted toward law enforcement and police unions. According to the bill, the board would include
Bill 2: Current law requires each law enforcement agency to have a publicly available policy or standard regulating the use of force by law enforcement officers. This bill requires each such policy or standard to provide the instances in which a use of force must be reported, how to report a use of force, and a requirement that officers who engage in or observe a reportable use of force must report it. This bill also prohibits disciplining a law enforcement officer for reporting a violation of an agency's policy or standard regarding the use of force.
Bill 3: Current law requires each law enforcement agency to prepare a policy regarding the use of force by its law enforcement officers and to make the policy available for public scrutiny. This bill requires the law enforcement agency to post its policy on the law enforcement agency website or, if the agency does not have one, on a site maintained by the municipality over which the law enforcement agency has jurisdiction. Under the bill, if the policy is changed, the law enforcement agency must ensure that the updated policy is posted as soon as practically possible but no later than one year after the change is made. The bill also requires a law enforcement agency to prominently post a means to request a copy of the policy and to provide a copy of the current policy at no charge as soon as practically possible but no later than three business days after a request is made.
Bill 4: This bill makes a number of changes that affect the board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city (presently only Milwaukee), the board of police and fire commissioners of a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more (presently only Madison) (jointly referred to as affected PFC boards), and the protective services departments of 1st class cities and 2nd class cities with a population of 200,000 or more (jointly, populous cities). The changes include altering the makeup of affected PFC boards, requiring certain training for affected PFC board members, establishing certain requirements related to hiring and oversight of chiefs of protective services departments in populous cities, creating an executive director or independent monitor position in populous cities, and altering the judicial review process for police and fire department disciplinary cases in a 1st class city.
Under current law, the board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city consists of seven or nine members selected by the mayor. Boards of police and fire commissioners of other cities, including a 2nd class city, consist of five members selected by the mayor. Under this bill, a board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city consists of nine members selected by the mayor, and confirmed by the common council. The board of a police and fire commission of a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more consists of seven members selected by the mayor. Each of these boards must contain at least one member selected from a list provided by each of 1) the employee association that represents nonsupervisory law enforcement officers and 2) the employee association that represents fire fighters.
This bill provides a method for selecting members of affected PFC boards when the mayor fails to make an appointment to a vacant position. If the mayor fails to make an appointment within 120 days of the occurrence of a vacancy, the common council may make the appointment, except when the vacant position is one that must be filled from one of the lists described above. In this case, the association that provided the list may make the appointment without confirmation by the common council.
In a 1st class city, a three-member panel of the board of fire and police commissioners may conduct and decide a trial to evaluate a complaint against a member of the police or fire department. This bill specifies that when a three-member panel conducts such a trial, at least one member of the panel must have professional law enforcement experience if the accused is a police officer, and at least one such member must have professional fire fighting experience if the accused is a fire fighter.
The bill also requires each member of an affected PFC board to take a training class provided by the city in which it operates. The training class must cover the mission and role of the board, the procedures that apply to disciplinary hearings, the conduct policies of the police and fire departments, and use of force guidelines of the police department. A member may not participate in any action of the board until he or she completes the training class and any other training required by the city.
The bill also creates the office of executive director in a 1st class city and the office of independent monitor in a 2nd class city with a population of 200,000 or more. Despite the different titles, these positions have the same duties and requirements. This person acts as the principal staff of an affected PFC board, reviews certain situations or investigations involving the police or fire department, evaluates police and fire department policies and practices, and issues periodic reports to the public relating to the status and outcome of complaints that have been filed. The executive director or independent monitor is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the common council and serves a four-year term, at the pleasure of the board.
This bill also specifies the following related to affected PFC boards:
1. When an affected PFC board appoints a protective services chief, the board must meet in closed session with representatives of the employee association whose members will serve under the proposed chief.
2. When an affected PFC board appoints a protective services chief, the board must hold at least two public meetings to hear comments from residents of the city and other interested persons.
3. When a member is appointed to an affected PFC board, the common council must hold two public hearings that include public comment periods with regard to the appointments.
4. If an affected PFC board accepts an additional application for chief of police after the application period for accepting these applications has closed, the board must reopen the application period for an additional seven days.
5. If the common council adopts a resolution by a two-thirds majority to conduct a performance review of a protective services chief, an affected PFC board must conduct the review and provide a written report to the common council.
6. A PFC board member may not continue in office after the expiration of his or her term, unless reappointed and, in a 1st class city, confirmed.
Currently, if a board of fire and police commissioners of a 1st class city discharges, suspends, or reduces in rank an officer or member of the police or fire department, the disciplined person may appeal that decision to a circuit court. This bill specifies the scope of review under which a court is to review an appeal of this sort. Under the bill, a court must review the evidence independently and without deference to the board's findings; must reverse the board's decision if it finds that fairness or correctness of the action has been impaired by material or procedural errors; and must set aside or modify the board's decision if it finds that the board erroneously interpreted a provision of law, or may remand the case to the board for further action that is consistent with current law. The bill also requires the court to reverse the board's decision if it finds that the board's exercise of discretion is outside of its delegated powers; is inconsistent with a board rule, policy, or practice, unless the board's deviation is adequately explained; or violates the constitution or the statutes. The bill also authorizes a court to take additional testimony, depositions, and interrogatories, and to grant requests for additional discovery.
Bill 5: This bill establishes a $600,000 grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, for cities with a population of 60,000 or more to fund community-oriented policing house programs.
Bill 6: Under this bill, if in any year a municipality decreases the amount of its municipal budget dedicated to hiring, training, and retaining law enforcement officers so that it is less than the amount dedicated to that purpose in the previous year, the municipality will receive a county and municipal aid payment that is reduced by the amount of that decrease. The bill provides that the amount of all such reductions will be distributed to the municipalities that did not reduce their law enforcement budgets in proportion to each municipality's share of the total amount of county and municipal aid payments. Furthermore, the amount of the reduced payment that the municipality receives becomes the amount of county and municipal aid that the municipality will receive in subsequent years.
The reductions under the bill do not apply to a municipality that transfers responsibility for providing law enforcement to another local unit of government or that enters into a cooperative agreement to share law enforcement responsibilities with another local unit of government.
Bill 7: Current law requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies on the use of force by law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties. This bill provides that a law enforcement agency may not authorize in its use of force policy the use of choke holds by law enforcement officers, except in life threatening situations or in self-defense.
Bill 8: Current law requires the Department of Justice to collect certain information concerning criminal offenses committed in Wisconsin. This bill requires DOJ to collect data and publish an annual report on law enforcement use of force incidents, including incidents where there was a shooting, where a firearm was discharged in the direction of a person (even if there was no injury), and where other serious bodily harm resulted from the incident. The bill requires certain demographic information to be collected about each such incident, and reported annually by DOJ on its Internet site.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Even the most minor violations of Department of Corrections' community supervision rules make people ineligible for expungement of their criminal records, the State Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
Judges making expungement decisions have no discretion in the matter, the court said.
State law allows courts to expunge conviction records for misdemeanors and certain felonies committed by a person under the age of 25 if that person successfully completes his or her sentence.
Advocates have been pushing for years to make expungement available to more people. This ruling likely will do just the opposite.
"This decision demonstrates once again the need for reform of Wisconsin's expunction law to clarify the process and allow deserving people to avoid the crippling effect of a criminal conviction to follow them for the rest of their lives," Craig Johnson, WJI president, said Friday.
"The decision is one more step in the wrong direction and ought to be corrected by the Legislature as soon as we reconvene," said State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), an expunction reform advocate in the Legislature. "It is one more example, of the many and growing, of why Wisconsin needs a thorough reform and modernization to our expungement law."
"The first rule of supervision, which applies to every person on probation, parole or extended supervision is, 'Avoid all conduct which is in violation of federal or state statute, municipal or county ordinances, tribal law or which is not in the best interest of the public welfare or your rehabilitation,'" said David Liners, state director of WISDOM and a justice reform advocate. "I do not know anyone who has not broken that rule. Rule 17, 'Report as directed for scheduled and unscheduled appointments,' would seem impossible to anyone who is not clairvoyant and knows to report for a meeting that has not been scheduled."
"The rules themselves remind me of Jim Crow 'literacy tests,' designed to be impossible to pass," he said. "By setting this standard, the court is doing to expungement what Jim Crow laws did to voting"
The Court of Appeals decision reversed a ruling by Green County Circuit Judge James R. Beer, who granted Jordan A. Lickes' request to expunge three of four convictions related to a sexual encounter he had with a 16-year-old girl in 2012, when he was 19.
"Lickes contends that a bright-line rule prohibiting expungement upon proof of a violation of even the most minor DOC rule would run contrary to the legislative purpose of the expungement statute, which is to provide a break to young offenders who demonstrate the ability to comply with the law,” District IV Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer E. Nashold wrote for the three-judge panel.
The panel rejected that interpretation.
"Because we interpret 'conditions of probation' in the expungement statute to include DOC rules, and because the record indisputably shows that Lickes violated DOC probation rules, the circuit court was without discretion to expunge Lickes’ criminal record," she wrote. "Said otherwise, the Legislature could have left this decision to the circuit court’s discretion but, instead, it has established clear objective standards that leave no room for the court’s exercise of discretion at that stage of the process."
The state's expungement law makes no specific reference to DOC rules, but the phrase "conditions of probation" has been interpreted in other cases to refer to court- and DOC-imposed conditions, so the same definition should apply for expungement, she wrote.
Nashold was joined in her ruling by Appeals Judges Brian W. Blanchard and Michael R. Fitzpatrick.
While the DOC rules infraction ruling will likely affect the most people, it was not the only issue in the case.
Lickes was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault, sexual intercourse with a child age 16 or older, disorderly conduct, and exposing his genitals or pubic area. The first three charges were misdemeanors; the fourth was a felony.
He pleaded guilty to the sex with a child charge and no contest to the others, according to the decision.
Beer sentenced him to probation and 90 days in jail with Huber privileges.
"By setting this standard, the court is doing to expungement what Jim Crow laws did to voting." – David Liners, state director of WISDOM
"The court then set a number of 'terms and conditions of probation,' including that Lickes 'enter into, participate [in] and successfully complete' sex offender treatment for two of the misdemeanors and the felony, Nashold said. If he did that, those counts could be expunged.
Lickes later admitted violating his conditions of probation, Nashold said. His probation agent said Lickes had unapproved sexual conduct, was terminated from a sex offender program, and provided false information to his probation agent.
Lickes agreed to spend 45 days in jail, with Huber privileges for work and treatment, as an alternative to revocation.
Lickes' probation on two of the misdemeanors ended in 2016 and he applied for expungement. His probation agent indicated in September that Lickes had successfully completed probation, but had not completed all the court's requirements. Lickes still was in sex offender treatment and was expected to finish in January 2017, the same month his felony probation was to end.
In July 2018, the probation agent filed another form, this time related to the felony, indicating Lickes had completed all his requirements.
The state opposed Lickes' request for expungement based on his probation violations, but Beer eventually granted it for the two misdemeanors and the felony.
The appeals panel, Besides finding that a probation violations made a person ineligible for expungement, found that Lickes did not meet his court-ordered probation requirements because he did not complete his sex offender treatment by the time his misdemeanor probation lapsed; he completed it after that, but before his felony probation lapsed.
"The circuit court’s probation condition requiring Lickes to 'complete' sex offender treatment for (the misdemeanor) counts...cannot reasonably be construed to mean that Lickes was permitted to complete the treatment after his probationary period ended for those counts," Nashold wrote. "Because Lickes did not complete sex offender treatment within the two-year probationary period for (those) counts...he did not satisfy a court-ordered condition of probation."
By Gretchen Schuldt
The Milwaukee Police Department absorbed 62 cents of every new dollar that went toward city departments' operating budgets over the last decade, budget figures show.
That left just 38 cents per dollar to split among the 18 other city departments, including the Health Department, the Milwaukee Public Library, the Department of Neighborhood Services, the Fire Department, and the Department of Public Works.
"We are looking at how we staff the Police Department and what they respond to....We're going to have to rethink a lot of things," said Dennis Yaccarino, city budget and management director.
The Police Department's operating budget increased by $80.5 million, from $216.8 million to $297.4 million, from 2010 to 2020.
The 18 remaining departments received combined general budget increases of $48.9 million from 2010 to 2020.
All departmental budgets rose $129.4 million over that time, from $527.8 million to $657.2 million.
The number of authorized Police Department full-time positions funded through the general budget fell slightly, by 60, from 2,687 to 2,627, over the 10 years, while the number of positions in the other departments fell from 3,117 to 3,103, a decline of 14, according to budget documents.
Police Department spending is sure to be a contentious topic during the Common Council debate over the 2021 city budget. Activists want to cut up to $75 million from the police budget in 2021 and allocate the amount to other purposes. The council has suggested a 10% trim for the Police Department.
The city's revenue picture has been upended by the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, protesters and others have demanded, since the death of George Floyd in May, changes in policing practices.
The city will renew its efforts for an increased sales tax that could be used to help out the city budget, Yaccarino said.
The city this year will publicly discuss budget initiatives – including those involving the police – before Mayor Tom Barrett's proposed budget is released in September, Yaccarino said. City officials are working to increase both public understanding of budget issues and input into the process, he said.
The city is seeking input through a budget survey and has posted a tool that allows residents to build their own budget. Both are here.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Allowing jurors to see a defendant visibly shackled into a wheelchair during the closing arguments of his trial was so potentially prejudicial that he must be released from prison or retried, a federal judge ruled this week.
The state must free Danny Wilber or initiate a new trial within 90 days, U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach said.
"It's 16½ years late," said Robert Henak, Wilber's lawyer.
Wilber, now 41, was convicted in 2005 of first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the 2004 shooting of David Diaz. The case included recanted eyewitness statements and physical evidence that cast serious doubt on whether Wilber was the shooter. Wilber was sentenced to life in prison, with eligibility for extended supervision after 40 years.
"The burden of proving prejudice is not Wilber’s," Griesbach wrote in his decision. "Instead, the state must prove that visibly shackling Wilber during closing argument did not contribute to his conviction....Given the inconsistent testimony of the eyewitnesses and the physical evidence suggesting Wilber could not have fired the fatal shot, the error may well have contributed to Wilber’s conviction."
Henak said the physical evidence showed Wilber "could not have been the one who shot the victim."
Diaz was shot in the head during a party at his South Side Milwaukee home. Two people allegedly identified Wilber as the shooter. At trial, however, both denied actually seeing the shooting, Griesbach said.
Even "more problematic" was the physical evidence, he said. The medical examiner testified that evidence indicated that Diaz was shot from behind at close range. Witnesses, though, said Wilber was in front of the victim, and one witness said there was another man with a gun at the party – behind Diaz.
In addition, witnesses said the gun Wilber had was a semi-automatic, which would have ejected a shell casing when fired. No casing was found, though, and a firearms expert testified that the bullet that killed Diaz was fired from a revolver.
From the start of the trial, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Mary Kuhnmuench – now retired – expressed unhappiness with Wilber's demeanor and what she perceived as his disrespectful demeanor, according to Griesbach's decision.
"Beginning the first day of trial before jury selection had even begun, the trial judge cautioned Wilber that he would not be allowed to make 'facial gestures,' 'sounds,' 'act imprudently,' or be disrespectful to the court," Griesbach wrote.
Kuhnmuench objected to Wilber turning to look at the prosecutor, Griesbach said.
"You can’t do that," she said, according to the decision. "You have to face frontwards at all times. You’re not allowed to look back into the gallery. You’re not allowed to turn back and make faces or gestures at the state table. You’re supposed to be sitting straight in front in your chair, eyes forward, confer with your lawyer, but always facing this direction."
Wilber's behavior would not be allowed to continue, she said.
"One, because it’s disrespectful, and I'm going to have to take some steps to stop you if you don't do it, if you don’t stop, and I don’t want to have to do that," she said. "And the second thing is it’s -- it’s bad for you and it looks bad in front of a jury."
Wilber's lawyer, Michael Chernin, explained that his client meant no disrespect, but that Wilber disagreed with the court's rulings.
"What I'm trying to tell you is it's a disrespect to the court to show you disagree," Kuhnmuench said.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Any significant budget cuts to the Milwaukee Police Department will affect staff and could well result in disproportionate cuts in the number of officers of color on the force, city figures show.
"I don't have a magic wand to change that," said Ald. Michael Murphy, chair of the Common Council's Finance and Personnel Committee.
About 95% of the department's operating budget this year, or $281.4 million of $297.4 million, is devoted to wages and fringe benefits, so any significant budget cut would have to include cuts in staffing.
The city's contract with the police union calls for the most recent hires to be the first to lose their jobs when and if the cuts come. If officers are hired at the same time – and officers in the same academy graduating class are considered to have the same seniority date – then their placement on the eligibility list at the time of hire is the tiebreaker, said city Labor Negotiator Nicole Fleck.
Most officers of color are bunched at the low end of the seniority scale, as the chart below shows. There are fewer people of color who become officers in the first place and they leave the job at faster rates than whites.
While there are 112 African-American police officers with fewer than five years' experience, there are just 20 with six to 10 years' service, and 34 with 11 to 15 years on the job.
There are 92 Hispanic officers with fewer than five years' experience, but just 31 with six to 10 years on the job and 34 with 10 to 15 years.
White officers also leave, but at lower rates, which adds to their edge in seniority. There are 271 White officers with fewer than five years' experience, 154 with six to 10 years', and 169 with 11 to 15 years of service.
Whites account for 55% of officers with fewer than five years on the job, but that jumps to 72% of those with six to 10 years of service and 68% of officers with 11 to 15 years on the force.
The city eliminated 60 police officer positions this year through attrition, Murphy said, and the financial situation looks worse for next year. City revenue is taking a hit because the coronavirus crisis is affecting tax collections at both the city and state levels.
The Common Council has indicated it will consider a police budget cut of 10%, or roughly $30 million. Police Chief Alfonso Morales, in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed, said that would mean about 375 lost officer jobs.
Activists are seeking a $75 million cut and want the money to go to other services. The Police Department has asked for an $18.5 million budget increase, according to budget documents.
A $75 million cut, Murphy said, would mean about half the force would go.
"It's the way it is," he said.
Markasa Tucker, director of the African American Round Table, a driving force behind the request for cuts, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Common Council President Cavalier Johnson.
Officers of color would likely be hit disproportionately, and that would not be good for the city. Its police, Murphy said, "should reflect the community."
The city does not have many options, he said. "I don't know how to do it otherwise with the current (contract) restrictions in place," he said.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The state prison population increased last week for the second week in a row, reversing the downward trend that began when the coronavirus outbreak prompted the Department of Corrections in March to stop accepting newly sentenced inmates from county jails.
DOC started accepting new inmates again June 1 and continues to do so, despite a statewide surge in coronavirus cases.
The number of incarcerated adults rose from 21,360 on July 10 – the low point in the state prison population this year – to 21,368 on July 17 and 21,390 on Friday.
The female prison population has been on the rise since June 26, when it hit a coronavirus-era low of 1,339. It rose in each subsequent week. The male population of incarcerated adults did not increase until until last week.
The overall prison population remains 9% lower than it was on March 6, early in the pandemic, when it stood at 23,485. On Friday, the population was 21,390.
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