On Jan. 19, the Milwaukee Common Council decided to ignore organizers’ demands by re-voting on and ultimately accepting the $9.7 million Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, which will hire 30 additional Milwaukee Police Department officers over three years. The grant was originally rejected last month, but after Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd motioned to reconsider it with added amendments, it was approved nine to six.
“I’m not surprised but I’m angry and frustrated,” said Hayden Harwood of Party for Socialism and Liberation Milwaukee. “If that money is used to hire more police, it means the Common Council will have to allocate more money towards MPD for the following years that those officers stay on. They pay for their salaries every year, for the damages they’ll eventually cause, and for their pensions. That $9.7 million wasn’t free. It was collected from the people and it will cost Milwaukee much more in the long run.”
“This just shows the corruption of our city alders who take campaign donations from police PACs,” said Zapata of PSL Milwaukee. “It also shows that the Common Council does not want to hold MPD accountable.”
The abrupt decision was an immense disappointment to The People’s Revolution, which has now been marching for more than 240 consecutive days demanding justice for victims of police violence. They, along with the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, have demanded that the city defund the police. Milwaukee’s sets aside 45.4 percent of its city budget for law enforcement.
“The Common Council only wanted to pretend that they heard our demands so they could posture as ‘progressive’ only to backpedal later,” said Erica Steib of PSL Milwaukee. “This tells me that city leadership will uphold the status quo of over-policing in Milwaukee. By hiring 30 more police officers, they are setting us, the taxpayers, up to foot the bill for future liability lawsuits when these cops maim or kill people. MPD will continue to leech resources away from the community programs our city needs.”
“Alders who voted for this continue to put the police over Black and Brown lives,” Zapata said. “They continue to use the excuse that what our communities need are more police, as the community cries out for what we all really need. And then they just keep cashing their checks. We must organize to remove these alders.”
Some members of the Common Council know this. Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic voiced her concern to the Shepherd Express that $35 million is spent by the city handling police misconduct and that the system is broken. Alderwoman Milele Coggs shared similar concerns about not being able to afford to sustain the grant long-term. However Nikiya Dodd, Ashanti Hamilton and Chantia Lewis changed their votes in favor of the grant.
“We must continue to pressure the Common Council to take a proactive response to the socioeconomic conditions that contribute to poverty and crime in Milwaukee,” Steib said. “People need rent relief, food stability, employment and mental health support. Not more cops.”
“We have to upgrade our own security of our neighborhoods and work together to police ourselves,” Harwood said. “There are other numbers besides 911 to call when there is a problem.”
The People’s Revolution continued their protest by celebrating Dontre Hamilton’s birthday on Jan. 20 and Derek Williams’ birthday on Jan. 23. They were both killed by Milwaukee police in the last decade.