Milwaukee rejected the $9.7 million federal COPS Grant, which would have funded 30 new police officers. Mayor Tom Barrett expressed dismay at the city council’s decision to turn back the funds. Meanwhile, activists embraced the decision and continue to call for a divestment from police and a reinvestment in community needs.
Vaun Mayes, a local community organizer, says that simply rejecting the grant isn’t enough. “We need to refocus on reinvesting dollars into pre-emptive and front-end programs that lower the need for police and jails,” he told Wisconsin Examiner. “Employment, non-police services, bettering education. We cannot police ourselves into a better Milwaukee.”
The rejection came as Milwaukee’s protest movement marked 200 days of demonstrations against police violence since May. It was a moment solidified by a certification filed by Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy on Dec. 14. “We’ve managed to do only the bare minimum: qualified bans on chokeholds at the county and city levels which should have been addressed a decade ago, and a few accountability measures,” said Clancy. “These are necessary, and far overdue, but these are not enough.
Although the Milwaukee Common Council rejected the grant, it’s still not yet completely dead. Ald. Nikiya Dodd, who voted against the grant, also moved to allow the council to vote again on the grant in January.
If the council affirms its decision, then the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) will lose an additional 30 officers in 2021. Other alders introduced resolutions with specific conditions for MPD to meet. Among them, improving response time and beefing up staff and traffic enforcement. Meanwhile, the council is also exploring whether it should have more control over the Fire and Police Commission, which oversees the police department.