Madison Common Council approves budget amendment to add more police officers

The Madison Common Council is poised to pass the city’s 2020 Capitol and Operating Budgets, discussing potential amendments Tuesday evening.

In its current state, the budget doesn’t allocate for additional police offers, a request of the department. It also doesn’t fund a ninth ambulance that firefighters say is badly needed.

“In the last month, eight or nine times, we had zero ambulances that were able to provide services to residents in the city,” said Mahlon Mitchell, president of the labor union Firefighters Local 311. “That is a problem.”

Dozens of firefighters showed up at the meeting advocating for funding in the budget for a ninth ambulance, noting they could really use more than that.

“It could be your mother, your father, your grandparent, your son, your daughter that needs help,” Mitchell said.

Three amendments to the budget were proposed that would allow for a ninth ambulance and 10 additional firefighters. All three failed.

One version would have used money that would have come in part from eliminating a $200,000 independent police auditor. Another would have eliminated a number of positions, including a Warner Park teen specialist and $300,000 worth of bus rapid transit Metro positions. The final proposal would have reduced the funding for the police auditor by $75,000, reducing funding for Community Building Engagement and eliminating two of five newly created Metro positions.

“If someone’s pitting the fire department against an auditor, oversight of the police department, then they don’t really care about any of us,” said Amelia Royko Maurer, a friend of Paul Heenan, who was shot and killed by an officer in 2012.

She said an independent audit is critical for the Madison Police Department.

“It has never found an officer in the wrong for taking a life since its inception,” she said. “That’s 130 years.”

The sentiment is expressed also expressed by the grandmother of Tony Robinson, the young man shot and killed by another officer in 2015.

“Every now and then, there needs to be one that says, ‘Nah, that’s not right,'” Sharon Irwin said. “That has to be independent. You can’t have officers doing it themselves.”

After emotional public comment on amendments that would add more police and fire department resources to the 2020 city budget, Madison’s common council is discussing these proposals. They will pass the budget by Thursday @WISCTV_News3

— Madalyn O’Neill (@news3madalyn) November 13, 2019

Other amendments under discussion aimed to add more police officers. One that was voted down would have added six full-time officers next year takes the funding from areas including general municipal employees’ pay increases and reduce funds for bus rapid transit studies. However, an amendment to add three police officers by transferring Planning Division funds from the operating capital budget passed late Tuesday night.

“The problem is, how can we address the growing number of concerns with shrinking numbers of available police resources?” said Nicholas Cleary, a neighborhood resource officer with MPD. “I’m here to advocate for more funds from the budget to improve the public’s safety. The easiest way we can do this as a city is to give them the number of police officers to keep them safe.”

According to Dave Schmiedicke, this leaves $13,000 until the council reaches the levy limit.

The council plans to meet again Wednesday evening to discuss the budget, and again Thursday if necessary. Other amendments will be up for discussion.

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