Governor has the duty to protect the people

Mahlon Mitchell

Mahlon Mitchell

At some point, as we’re growing up we all want to be a firefighter or a police officer.

Naturally, we feel connected to our communities and we want contribute in a real, meaningful way. That’s how I felt about my community and my state growing up as a young man in Delavan.

I joined the Madison Fire Department at the age of twenty, and immediately realized a sense of duty; when someone called it was usually the worst day of their life and my job was to help them.

Our public safety officials and our government leaders have a duty to protect the people of Wisconsin.

Scott Walker and Republicans have let down Wisconsin’s communities when it comes to keeping the streets safe and the neighborhoods strong.

They’ve only preached lipservice to combating violence in our neighborhoods and they’ve supported efforts to make it easier for Wisconsin residents to obtain guns.

That agenda may work as a political tool, but it does nothing to ensure the safety of people in our state.

Walker’s first budget made his intentions clear; he asked all state agencies to cut 10% from their budgets and find an additional $174.3 million to shed.

That meant the Department of Justice cutting sexual assault victims grants by 42.5%, grants that would likely still be cut today if Walker didn’t have to face real public scrutiny to reinstate them for victims in our state.

Later that year, two days before Christmas, Walker announced $2.46 million in brand new cuts — as if deeper cuts to programs would make Wisconsin a safer place.

In response, the Department of Justice cut $1.36 million from their program of criminal history searches and fingerprint identification services.

In addition, the Department of Corrections slashed $3.8 million in operations cuts, $3.9 million in juvenile justice programs, and $846,400 in sex offender management.

How can state agencies like the Department of Corrections or the Department of Justice do their jobs when their resources are continually being cut? The answer is they can’t; they’re forced to do more with less. Scott Walker either doesn’t understand this or he just doesn’t care.

You would expect programs like the ShotSpotter program in Milwaukee to be funded fully if the governor was actually serious about making sure the people in the largest city in the state were safe, but in the previous legislative session Republicans only partially restored funding to a program shown to be effective in fighting crime.

For those in areas like Milwaukee or Madison, the governor’s inattention to making neighborhoods safe is appalling.

We’ve yet to see a genuine response from our governor on the crisis of violent crimes and destruction in our cities.

Instead, we get election year gimmicks that serve as good talking points, but only put a band-aid on a hemorrhaging wound.

Last year, Wisconsin Republicans— led by Governor Walker—cut more than $445,000 from Milwaukee’s public safety budget.

That money was to be used to expand ShotSpotter, a system with a proven track record of success that uses sensors to identify and pinpoint gunfire, allowing public safety officials and medical professionals to respond more quickly to shootings.

Walker’s budget cut went against the advice of the Milwaukee Police Department, who had supported fully funding the program. After intense scrutiny over the massive cuts, Walker and Republicans restored $175,000 to the program. In an election year move, Walker took credit for partially restoring funding, after cutting the program by nearly $450,000.

While Scott Walker takes credit, gun violence still plagues neighborhoods in Milwaukee, where almost 8,000 violent crimes occur each year. In the summer of 2011, Governor Walker signed a concealed-carry bill into law that put even more guns on our streets.

Less than one year later, the Milwaukee Police Department implored the state legislature to support three amendments to the law to address the bill’s problems.

The proposed changes would have prevented repeat offenders from obtaining concealed carry permits and increasing penalties for those who do.

Working to get illegal guns off the streets, and ShotSpotter technology onto them, should be a priority for elected leaders like Scott Walker.

Democratic candidate for Governor Mary Burke, on the other hand, has proven a real dedication to the issue.

Burke recognizes that the solution is in supporting law enforcement and providing resources for everyone to have the opportunity to succeed.

That’s why the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin endorsed Mary Burke in the race for Governor.

Preventing crime is about both keeping weapons off the street, but also about building communities where everyone has a shot at success.

Providing education and opportunity for young people to make smart decisions early on in life is something Mary Burke has committed her life to.

Voters will face a clear choice on Election Day in November.

We can either vote for four more years of Scott Walker’s posturing and lip-service, or we can vote for a real leader in Mary Burke, someone who understands and respects the duty a governor has to the people of their state.