How to defund police and sheriff now!

Demonstration in Wauwatosa, June 2020.

People have overwhelming come out to say: we want fewer cops, and more investment in people and communities. But right now: our work is at risk!

Politicians in Milwaukee are making decisions that will either continue the city’s carceral and white supremacist approach to public safety, or depart from it to invest in people and communities. This is a time when we need the whole city talking about the budgets, and particularly about defunding police. If you haven’t contacted your local representatives yet, on both the city and county level, now is the time. 

What’s at stake this week:

  • 195 more cops. Mayor Tom Barrett proposed three police recruit classes of 65 cops each, which will cost Milwaukee $6 million. Common council will approve it next Monday unless we stop them.
  • Harm reduction in the jail and house of corruption (HOC). A committee of the county board is hearing a resolution about giving people held in the jail and HOC free phone calls and video visits on Friday, October 29, at 10:30am. 
  • $3 million increase for county sheriff’s office (MCSO). County exec David Crowley proposed raises for MCSO staff, but the county board can shut him down. 
  • $700,000 for lakefront surveillance. Crowley also proposed a system to expand MCSO surveillance and violence on the lakefront.
  • Divesting $11.3 million MCSO. County board members introduced 24 amendments that will take money from the sheriff and put it into human needs and real public safety. 

There will be votes in both the county board and common council about these issues this week. Below find instructions on which politicians to contact and when to testify. Please take 30 minutes ASAP to make some calls and send emails!

MPD officers attack Sherman Park residents (2016 Milwaukee uprising).

At the city level: stop 195 more cops 

Mayor Barrett wanted the money for this to come from Milwaukee’s first tranche of the recovery act (ARPA). Under pressure from the public, the common council moved it to the normal budget process. That means a vote in the finance and personnel committee on Thursday, October 28 at 9AM, and then before the full common council on November 5. The alderperson we spoke to said it was likely to pass these votes.

There are other amendments proposed. Organizers at LiberateMKE have highlighted the best and worst of them:

Contact these 5 alders on the finance committee TODAY and tell them to vote against all police funding on the 28th! Coggs and Kovac are most likely to agree with us, Zamarripa is probably on the fence, while Murphy and Spiker have historically acted like unquestioning pro-cop bootlickers.

LIKELY TO SUPPORT MORE COPS:
Michael J Murphy (committee chair) 414-286-3763 
Scott Spiker 414-286-8537 

ON THE FENCE:
JoCasta Zamarripa 414-286-3533

MAY VOTE AGAINST MORE COPS:
Nik Kovac 414-286-2221
Milele A.Coggs 414-286-2221

Send a group email: mmurph@milwaukee.gov, scott.spiker@milwaukee.gov, nkovac@milwaukee.gov,  JoCasta.Zamarripa@milwaukee.gov, mcoggs@milwaukee.gov 

After contacting the committee, look up your alderperson and demand they vote against the recruitment of new cops when the amendment comes before them on November 5. 

When contacting these alderpeople, tell them that hiring more cops adds to the city’s budget crisis, bankrupting future generations for the sake of white supremacist control now. Remind them that 90% of public testimony they received on October 4 called for defunding police. Tell them that they are supposed to represent the people, and the people have spoken clearly in favor of defunding police.

Hi [introduce self]

Milwaukee has a budget and pension crisis – do not hire more cops!
The vast majority of people – 90% in testimony on Oct 4th – asked you to defund police.
You are supposed to represent us, the people: do your job, and defund police!

Sincerely, 

[your name]
[your address]

Tom Barret, Mike Murphy, and Tony Evers standing by the later-demoted Alfonso Morales, February 2020.

That’s it for the city level action. In the county, there are two different committee’s having important hearings this week, the judiciary, safety, and general services committee (JSGC) will be voting on harm reduction in the jail and HOC, and the finance committee will be voting on the budget. 

To win free calls and visits in the jail and HOC:

In September, Ryan Clancy introduced a resolution to give everyone held in the county jail and HOC 75 free minutes. The resolution went before the county board’s judiciary, safety, and general services committee (JSGC) on September 9, but it was laid over. It will be heard again on Friday October 29, at 10:30 am

We hear there will be amendments to this resolution, because county exec Crowley proposed money for it in his budget, and it may be possible to make all calls free by installing phone and data lines directly, rather than working with private companies. With this in mind, keep your testimony focused on the general harm of charging people held in the jail and HOC for these services.

Patti Logsdon and Sylvia Ortiz-Velez were the most vocal opponents of this resolution back in September. You can watch video of that meeting to see them saying some ignorant and racially coded bullshit.

September 9 JSGC meeting.

You can sign up to testify Friday 29, at 10:30, or file an ecomment. The county board website is not user friendly and at the time of writing the links are not all available. If they aren’t updated when you read this, just contact committee members directly instead:

LIKELY TO OPPOSE HARM REDUCTION:
Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (414) 278-4269
Patti Logsdon (414) 278-4267

MIGHT BE ON THE FENCE: 
Anthony Staskunas (414) 278-4247
Priscilla E. Coggs-Jones (414) 278-426

SUPPORTIVE OF HARM REDUCTION:
Steven Shea (414) 278-4231

Send a group email: anthony.staskunas@milwaukeecountywi.gov, sylvia.ortizvelez@milwaukeecountywi.gov, patti.logsdon@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Steven.Shea@milwaukeecountywi.gov, priscilla.coggsjones@milwaukeecountywi.gov

When contacting these board members, remember to emphasize that maintaining connection with family and friends is the most important factor to reduce the harm of incarceration and recidivism. Also, note that at the September 9 meeting, some committee members said this resolution would cost too much money. That is absolutely untrue. The county sheriff’s office may lose revenue from phone calls and video visits, but that revenue ultimately comes from the people of Milwaukee county, those making the calls and visits. The jail and HOC are far more likely to hold people who are living in poverty or struggling with economic instability, so the sheriff’s revenue is really coming from the exploitation of our most vulnerable neighbors. Exploitation leads to economic strain and instability, which erodes public safety. 

Here’s a sample script you can use:

Hello members of JSGC,

I am contacting you about the resolution to give free phone and video visit time to people held in the county jail and HOC. Maintaining connection with friends and family reduces the hardship and destabilization caused by incarceration. It reduces recidivism and thus serves public safety in the long run.

The people held in the county jail and HOC are residents of the county and should not be treated by the sheriff as sources of revenue to be exploited. This practice costs us more in the long run.

Recognize the humanity of incarcerated people, reduce mass incarceration and save money in state taxes. Vote in favor of this resolution.

Sincerely,

[your name]
[your address]

County executive David Crowley posing in front of a public mural about protesting racist police violence.

To defund the county sheriff:

The county board’s finance committee are having meetings all week where they’ll consider amendments to Crowley’s proposed budget. Then, on Monday November 1, the full board will hear public testimony. On November 8, they will vote to finalize the county budget. 

Earlier this year sheriff Earnell Lucas and his lackey Ted Chisholm demanded higher staff pay, to solve their overtime expenditures. Despite MCSO’s stubborn refusal of public transparency and greedy raiding of the county’s mental health funds, county executive David Crowley is appeasing their requests. He’s proposed $3 million worth of raises for his staff, and a $700,000 surveillance system that will further lock down Milwaukee’s lakefront. Fortunately, county supervisor Ryan Clancy has introduced 24 amendments that will move $11.3 million from MCSO’s budget to human needs. 

Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, 1st Vice-Chair Sequanna Taylor, 2nd Vice-Chair Steven Shea, and Finance Committee Chair Jason Haas and others have co-sponsored some of these amendments, making them more likely to pass. 

A number of community organizations are circulating a letter demanding a 25% cut to MCSO’s budget, which the proposed amendments would realize. Depending on which of the amendments pass, MCSO money would be redirected to repairing parks, opening pools, the credible messenger diversion program, paying incarcerated workers at the HOC and jail more than $0.00 per hour for their labor, and more. 

The full list of amendments is not available online, but when we asked for something like it, Clancy’s office sent this helpful graphic.

To support these amendments contact the county finance committee ASAP!

LIKELY TO OPPOSE AMENDMENTS THAT DEFUND MCSO:
Willie Johnson, Jr, Vice Chair (414) 278-4233
Joseph J. Czarnezki (414) 278-4253

MAY BE ON THE FENCE OR SUPPORTING ONLY SOME AMENDMENTS:
Jason Haas, Chair (414) 278-4252
Shawn Rolland (414) 278-4273
Liz Sumner 

SUPPORTS ALL OR MANY AMENDMENTS:
Sequanna Taylor (414) 278-4278
Ryan Clancy (414) 278-4232

Send a group email: Jason.Haas@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Willie.Johnson@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Sequanna.Taylor@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Joseph.Czarnezki@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Shawn.Rolland@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Liz.Sumner@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Eddie.Cullen@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Sheldon.Wasserman@milwaukeecountywi.gov, Ryan.Clancy@milwaukeecountywi.gov

Next week Monday the process of full board approval starts, with a public hearing, which you can sign up to testify at. Then, during the week, find your county supervisor and contact them, urging them to vote in support for defunding MCSO and investing in human needs and real public safety. 

Sample script: 

Dear supervisors,

I am writing in support of the budget amendments that direct 25% of public funds away from the sheriff’s office and into human needs. Sheriff Earnell Lucas has proven to be a poor manager of funds, stubbornly resistant to public oversight, and reliant on extortion of racially targeted communities to pad his budget. 

MCSO has exceeded their overtime every year Lucas has been in office. He and his staff lie about how they need those resources to fight violent crime, but after months of resistance, he admitted the divisions where Lucas directs most overtime hours include the jail and patrols, not investigation of violent crime. Issuing fines on patrol and surcharges on necessary services in the jail are two sources of revenue for MCSO. This is not an office oriented around public safety, but around taking money from communities they target. 

Reinvesting MCSO funds into human needs will actually reduce stress and economic hardship for the people of Milwaukee county. This is the true pursuit of public safety, addressing violence at the root causes, rather than profiting off the perpetuation of violence through ineffective law enforcement practices. 

Please vote for every budget amendment that reduces MCSO funding and invests in human needs.

Sincerely,

[your name]
[your address]

Members of the county board.

Spread the word

Its late in this process, and this year the call to defund law enforcement does not have the momentum in the streets or media that it had in 2020. On the other hand, committed organizers have focused energy on pressuring the right politicians at the right time to make gains. Some mass support backing up these well-targeted actions can go a long way.

Please take 30 minutes to send emails, make calls, testify at hearings, and most importantly, ask your friends and family to do so as well. Together, we can win. 

ACTION CHECKLIST

  1. Sign this letter as group/organization or individual-
    1. Use this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSei0pYxUzZots93vIAn-nueVH8pcQflcIxDts9al90JNca1ag/viewform?fbclid=IwAR2fwsnoV7vWPJUMWcZPG2aW3mP1EjHCfOcYCDa-AJBwa8YmtZxI3jfwv5A
  1. CONTACT Your City Representatives to block recruiting new cops
    1. Via phone calls- see above.
    2. Via a group email- see above.
  1. CONTACT The Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee to reduce harm in the jail and HOC
    1. Via phone calls- see above.
    2. Via a group email- see above.
  1. CONTACT The County Finance Committee to defund the sheriff and fund human needs.
    1. Via phone calls- see above.
    2. Via a group email- see above.
  1. GET YOUR COUNTY PUBLIC TESTIMONY IN BEFORE NOV. 1st 
    1. Sign up to speak live: 
      1. Use this form: https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/Board-of-Supervisors?fbclid=IwAR1nCEDwcSVokZuWCzLOM_G-O_UNxuNKpCd7fgSgB-C9wuQLTht-MC5yxA4 
    2. Submit your written comments:
      1. Use this form: https://milwaukeecounty.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=807340&GUID=B5075279-9E56-4343-8BE9-212C20EDD99A&Options=info%7C&Search=
  1. SHARE THIS ARTICLE / ACTION STEPS
    1. Tell your friends and family
    2. Text, DM, or email people
    3. Post to social media
      1. This is often the least effective form of action, because algorithms bury radical content, or people encounter it while scrolling and unprepared to take even a few minutes for action. 
    4. Talk to people about defunding or abolishing the police.
      1. Ask each other what it might take to make that happen here.
      2. Discuss what we can do as communities and individuals to take care of each other and pursue real public safety.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s