Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Which are not “public safety functions”?

In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on Monday, Scott Walker offered a curious quote regarding his patchwork budgeting for public safety. In it he remarkably commented that "workers in the courts and district attorney's office 'do not perform public safety functions…'" Unfortunately he did not elaborate on what exactly qualifies as a "public safety function" in his opinion. Apparently Walker believes that public safety begins and ends with an arrest.

The story goes on to quote other public officials that spell out exactly how county workers actually do play a key role in public safety functions on a regular basis. They also go on to spell out exactly what Walker's patchwork budgeting will mean for various public safety functions.

  • Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm said that he would have to make "triage decisions" in which charges for lesser crimes are delayed or skipped so prosecutors can focus on serious felony cases. He also said that whole categories of cases might get less attention and that some suspects could be referred for diversion programs instead of prosecution. Good thing, none of those things are "public safety functions".
  • Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers suggested that Walker's patchwork public safety budget would translate into 27,000 fewer hours for court personnel. He went on to say that, "clearly, someplace in the system is going to suffer." Good thing that running trials of alleged criminals isn't a "public safety function."
  • The Milwaukee County Clerk pointed out that Walker's patchwork budget for public safety is going to lead to delayed arrest warrants, trials and restraining orders. Good thing that none of those tasks have anything to do with a properly functioning public safety system.

I know that I shouldn't expect anything more than campaign sound bites from Scott Walker for the rest of the year, but I would really like to hear him elaborate on his absurd comment regarding what is/isn't a "public safety function". I would equally like to hear him explain how each of the above functions have nothing at all to do with public safety.

For more reading: See the Milwaukee County First blog on the subject. They point out even more examples of "public safety functions" that are being harmed by Walker's patchwork budgeting.

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