More cops in Madison?

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That’s the jist of Police Chief Noble Wray’s budget memo to the mayor. Brenda Konkel, with more than a little sarcasm sprinkled about, gives a complete rundown of what the top cop is requesting in the face of a fiscal crisis.

The memo starts out with the required Mayoral butt kissing:
– Thank you for adding 56 of our 438 sworn police officers in the last 6 years.
– Thank you for allowing us to present a budget that takes projected increases in salaries and benefits for 2010 into account.

THE PUNCHLINE . . .
– 8 – 21 patrol officers are needed. Number one priority is to ensure that patrol staffing levels remain consistent with the recommendations of the 2008 Etico Patrol Staffing Study. i.e. 8 – 21 more officers.

– 5 additional Detectives are needed. Also need Detectives. “Although the Etico Solutions Detective/Investigator staffing study is not yet completed, preliminary data supports the need for five additional Detective positions.”

GRAND PLAN TO ADDRESS GANGS AND VIOLENT CRIME
– Add one officer to each district to provide district-specific crime prevention efforts including analysis of environmental design, as well as a comprehensive measurable problem-solving approach to gangs or other rising concerns.

There’s a lot more documented chez Brenda but you get the point. It has become a point of consensus among commentators in Madison that the police department is not subjected to the same standard of scrutiny when agency spending is reviewed, especially during times of cuts. Without delving too deeply into police policy, I must say I am intrigued by the gang prevention officer initiative, and I think those of us who prefer prevention to enforcement should support the idea. The amount of time dedicated to really examining the root causes of gang participation, including environmental factors, poverty and education, is pathetic. Any big city needs to have officers who are completely dedicated to crime prevention, and that doesn’t just mean more teachers.

However, one commenter did bring up a point that would surely garner some impassioned approval in the student community: the alcohol co-ordinator.

“Cut the Alcohol Policy Coordinator position. It is redundant with the police, Joel Plant, and attorney’s office.” Here’s the thing – because drinking is such a huge issue in a college town of a heavy drinking state, it is almost inevitable that the mayor would appoint somebody to concentrate on alcohol issues. However, what kind of “alcohol policy” can be said to affect drinking behavior in the city? The alcohol license density plan sure won’t, and no other policies, including increased enforcement or fines, will either.

If the objective is to keep more people out of bars, that could happen, but it wouldn’t necessarily lead to better results in the areas of crime or safety. I’m not going to regurgitate the cliché point about unregulated house parties, but I simply want to know what the alcohol coordinator would do differently than the police department in addressing alcohol-related crime. The truth is that people will never decrease their drinking – so it’s really the behavior associated with drinking that needs to be addressed. This is an issue that we will come back to often in the near future.

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