Politics & Government
1:00 am
Fri January 17, 2014

GOP Has Change of Heart Over Milwaukee Police ShotSpotter Funding

Milwaukee Police Department's ShotSpotter Rapid Response Unit
Credit ShotSpotter

Last year, state Republican leaders cut nearly a half million dollars from the Milwaukee Police Department's ShotSpotter program. Now, they would like to restore some of it.

The City of Milwaukee allocated $300,000 for the technology, but Police Chief Flynn wanted to use the state money to expand ShotSpotter from its current three square miles to ten.

GOP legislators introduced a bill Thursday to funnel $175,000 back into ShotSpotter.

The Milwaukee Police Department started using ShotSpotter technology back in 2010. The system employs microphones or sensors in areas where gunshots are common. Police Chief Edward Flynn says the program enables officers to pinpoint where shots originated and then respond more quickly.

“With the assistance of ShotSpotter technology, these officers have been able to interrupt gun fights, provide first aid, gather evidence and arrest the violent criminals who plague some of our city’s neighborhoods,” Flynn says.

At a news conference in Madison Thursday, he thanked lawmakers for offering to restore some of the funding. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he didn’t know what the program did, until the chief demonstrated it last summer.

“I want to personally and publicly thank him for the amount of time and effort he has spent over the past year, helping those of us who either didn’t fully understand all of the issues the Milwaukee Police Department was dealing with, or didn't understand the new technology that's being deployed," Vos says.

Yet, Vos does not think the state should restore all funding for ShotSpotter, because Milwaukee County is putting $175,000 toward the program.

Democratic Assemblyman Mandela Barnes is pleased legislative leaders have had a change of heart. But, he wishes they'd approve more money, now that they understand how the program helps police fight crime.

"It frightens me because they weren't familiar with the details of ShotSpotter when they made the cut. That's been the course of action for too many issues with this administration, with the governing party in both houses of the legislature. Unfortunately, they don't know the details of a lot of programs they cut," Barnes says.

The Assembly plans to vote on the bill in February.