Madison police is losing officers, acting chief blames low staffing

The Madison Finance Committee did not approve funding for more police officers at its budget meeting Monday, though full council could vote to change that.

The Madison Police Department has requested 31 more officers, though 2020 budget amendments show likely no more than 12 would be approved, and that would cost $671,700.

Biggest issues so far: POLICE. The committee is considering cutting money for an independent police monitor and adding $ for more police officers. Most speakers tonight (6/10) voicing their thoughts on this, but it’s split for which funding they support. #News3Now

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) October 21, 2019

Alder Keith Furman, who serves on the finance committee, said there isn’t room in the budget to give the department its request, but beyond that, he sees the problems of staffing as problems of retention.

“I struggle with that number (the department requested) when I look at how many openings they have in the department based on retirements and resignations,” Furman said.

The Madison Police Department has had 53 officers resign from the force in the last five years, and 33 of those had been there for three years or fewer.

“We’ve got a fantastic department but we just have to figure out what it would take to keep people in what is a difficult job,” Furman said.

He proposed a budget amendment that would move up incentives to people in the department who got their master’s degrees six months earlier than the program that’s in place now – a cost of $143,250. The amendment failed to get support at Monday’s meeting.

Interim Chief Victor Wahl said there are many factors that go into people not staying on the force, including a national attitude toward police and a generational trend of millennials not staying in careers for as long, but staffing is number one.

“Staffing is something we as a city do have control over,” Wahl said. “I think it’s where we can have the most impact.”

He said the department is having to move officers off their assigned task forces in order to cover patrol duties, and due to being short staffed, some officers have to pull long shifts and handle significantly more calls than the department would like.

He said officers are getting burnt out.

“One of the things we hear with some of the officers who have left early is it’s just really the day to day grind of workload,” Wahl said. “We certainly can’t have a workload that keeps growing, a city that keeps expanding, and not have staffing to match that. Something will have to give.”

Madison Common Council is scheduled to take up the 2020 budget on Nov. 12.

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