The chair of the Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Safety committee didn’t mince words Tuesday, when he outlined the qualities he would like to see in the next police chief. Ald. Bob Donovan has been a longtime critic of Chief Edward Flynn, who announced he’ll be retiring next month.
Donovan gave what he called the “State of Public Safety in the City” address at City Hall on Tuesday. It included what he wants to see in the next police chief, and also a broader plan for reducing crime.
Donovan says he’s “pleased” that Flynn is retiring, noting the chief had lost the confidence of much of the Common Council and the department’s rank-and-file officers. He says he’s not exaggerating the public safety crisis facing Milwaukee, and many people are upset about it.
“The truth is that many of our constituents see with their own eyes that their quality of life and even their physical safety has declined in recent years,” Donovan says.
Donovan says crime is the one overriding factor preventing Milwaukee from reaching its full potential. He called on Mayor Tom Barrett, Gov. Walker and state lawmakers to work together to come up with solutions. Donovan requested tougher laws for certain violent crimes.
“I would first ask the state legislature to undertake a thorough review of the penalties attached to violent offenses, stiffen them as appropriate and make the sentences for repeat offenders mandatory. I would particularly ask that mandatory sentences be attached to those who commit violent acts with firearms,” Donovan says.
Donovan also wants Gov. Walker to convene a special commission to study ways to overhaul the juvenile justice system. He applauded the governor’s efforts to close Lincoln Hills in northern Wisconsin, and create five smaller, regional facilities for juvenile offenders. But, he says more work needs to be done. Donovan says he would like the next chief to have roots in the Milwaukee community, and to “move aggressively to re-establish safety.”
Robert Woods was walking through the rotunda at City Hall following the news conference. He lives in Milwaukee and says he would like the next chief to address violent crime in the central city.
“Try to do some different tactics because the old tactics, some were working, some were not. If some are not working, you need to change the way you approach it,” Woods says.
Woods says he doesn’t feel as safe now, living here, as he did while growing up. But, Democratic state Sen. LaTonya Johnson called Donovan’s tougher penalties solution, one sided.
“This is going to take more than just an arrest-our-way-out-of-it approach because we can’t do that. We don’t have the resources to do that,” Johnson says.
Johnson says a more holistic approach to public safety is best. She says that includes fighting for more money from the state, as well as for job training and quality education.