Milwaukee, WI – On Monday, October 30, the County Board of Supervisors held their annual public hearing to discuss the proposed 2024 county budget. One of the proposals within this budget was an increase to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) of $7 million. Although people attended the public hearing to discuss a wide range of issues, such as taking into account the safety of Milwaukee County Transit System’s drivers or better accessibility for the disabled community within the county, the majority of public testimonies demanded increased spending for public goods and services rather than continual increase to the MCSO.
“That money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is our communities. As you chip away at our communities, you harm people,” said Pearl Foster, a social worker in Milwaukee, highlighting that an increase in the MCSO’s budget would harm other programs funded by tax dollars. This excessive funding of policing institutions at the cost of peoples’ ability to live with dignity is an issue that plagues most municipalities across the U.S.
MCSO’s request for a budgetary increase has also spurred criticism due to an alarming lack of transparency. Alan Chavoya, Outreach Chair of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR), said, “If the county sheriff is serious about wanting more money, we have to understand how they are using or, in better terms, misusing the budget they already have.”
Chavoya and other Milwaukee residents have been calling for a full third-party audit from the MCSO in order for the public to understand how the millions they receive each year are spent.
Unfortunately, the county budget presents one of the few opportunities for members of the public to pressure elected officials to hold the MCSO accountable. As the MCSO arrogantly reminds the public at county board meetings, they are only accountable to themselves. For this reason, the Milwaukee Alliance has been calling for a Civilian Accountability Council over the MCSO. While the proposed budget is poised to pass through the county board at the November 9 meeting, the struggle against the MCSO, the in-custody deaths, and deplorable conditions inside the county jail continue.