MILWAUKEE — Just nine weeks away from the general election, Milwaukee has once again become the center of debate for candidates for Wisconsin attorney general.
The top two candidates want to see change so the violence that happened over Labor Day weekend isn’t repeated.
Cellphone video shows the end of a chase and then a shooting near Water Street and Juneau on Friday evening. The chase ended when Milwaukee police said Ernest Terrell Blakney, 47, shot at police and officers returned fire. During the shooting, Blakney, a homicide suspect, was fatally shot by police, and a 22-year-old bystander was also shot but is expected to survive.
“These officers and every officer there are seeing an increase in violent crime. They have been extended. They had their days off canceled on short notice and they’re trying to do a lot more with a lot less,” said Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Police Association.
On Monday, there was another shooting at 1:30 a.m. in downtown Milwaukee near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and State Street. He injured two people who are expected to survive. The union says these violent crimes tax Milwaukee officers.
“As we’ve seen our staffing levels go down, we’ve seen an increase in violent crime in the city,” Wagner said.
Republican candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General Eric Toney, who is backed by the Milwaukee police union, says he wants to increase resources. The same goes for Democrat and incumbent Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. Part of how they want to increase these resources is to have initial pursuit power. This could only come if the legislator approves this change. Toney wants this authority for Milwaukee County. Kaul wants it for the whole state.
“Make Milwaukee a priority because if we protect Milwaukee, we will protect all of Wisconsin. That’s why I’ve advocated for granting our Attorney General initial prosecutorial authority here in Milwaukee, so we can take on the crime they don’t want or can’t prosecute,” Toney said.
When it comes to crime, Milwaukee County tops the state with 53,719 offenses in 2021, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The numbers drop dramatically after Milwaukee County. The rest of the top five counties for criminal offenses include 14,016 in Dane County, 4,909 in Brown County, 4,162 in Waukesha County and 4,052 in La Crosse County.
“I think the Attorney General should have home prosecuting authorities across the state, so that if there are crimes that the AG’s office can step in and prosecute, we have that capability. Now we also need to have resources in the AG’s office to make sure the authority is effective,” Kaul said.
Candidates also differ on where the money for these resources comes from. The mayor and the Milwaukee police union want to see the state’s shared revenue increase as the city faces deep budget cuts. Toney would not commit to advocating for increased revenue sharing. He wants the money to come from the governor’s office using US bailout dollars.
“We have a budget surplus and that’s an issue that the legislature is going to have to address and I’m going to work with them to make sure Milwaukee has those resources, but that can’t happen until next year and we have them. need now,” Toney said.
“My opponent said he wanted to use one-time funding, but that won’t get the job done. We need long-term funding so we can hire more police and prosecutors and make sure that when people commit crimes crimes, they are held accountable and end up behind bars if they have committed serious offences,” Kaul said.
Both candidates say changes also need to be made to the bail system to ensure violent offenders are not given low bail.
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