Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Police dispatch controversy


Wigderson and his critics, the police squad edition:

I don’t often brag too much about the columns I’ve written,  but this last one for the Waukesha Freeman concerning the possible switch by the city of Waukesha to using the county’s emergency call center was pretty good. It’s already caused some interesting reactions.

The Waukesha Freeman, starting with the open records request I did, followed up with the police department. (Interesting that the police department didn’t want to answer my questions until next week when Captain Dennis Angle and Police Chief Russell Jack both returned from vacations.)  Captain Ron Tischer attempted to explain the police department’s attempt to stack the deck at the next Common Council meeting.

“We got in contact with these people we’ve built partnerships with through community policing efforts over the past 15 years and asked them to read the study, ask questions and make up their own minds,” Tischer said. “We didn’t ask for support – we just asked people to become informed and come to their own conclusions.”

Tischer said the department hopes for 500 attendees at the April 17 Common Council meeting to ensure that as many people as possible are informed about what’s going on.

“We aren’t naive in thinking everyone there will be a PD supporter, but if they’re not, we think the presentation will convince them, because it speaks for itself,” Tischer said. “We’re not trying to intimidate anyone, just asking people to become informed.”

It will cost an estimated $2,000 to accommodate the audio and visual requirements of moving the meeting to Waukesha North High School, and Tischer said though the department is trying to keep costs down, it will be money well-spent if as many citizens see the presentation as possible.

The presentation is based on the department’s feasibility study, whose objectivity has been questioned by some public officials.

It’s worth reminding Tischer that the police chief came out against the consolidation of 911 call centers last year, well before any study was done by the city of Waukesha Police Department. Also, there has been specific criticisms of the study, which we’ll explore in greater depth.

My column generated this Sound Off in today’s Waukesha Freeman:

James Wigderson’s blog accuses the Waukesha Police Department of organizing opposition to dispatch consolidation with the Waukesha County Communications Center and supports Dan Vrakas’ call for an independent study free of a political agenda. He goes on to mention how the City of Pewaukee government was able to defeat “whipped up” efforts to intimidate city officials to vote against replacing the City of Pewaukee Police Department with Waukesha County sheriff service.

Mr. Wigderson: The taxpayers of the City of Pewaukee paid $18,000 for an “independent study,” which advised NOT to disband the department. Further, enough Pewaukee voter signatures were presented to the city council requesting a referendum on disbanding the department. Mayor Scott Klein broke a 3-3 aldermanic deadlock on honoring a voter referendum and thus disbanded the department. (A referendum request is “intimidation,” Mr. Wigderson? If so, you are residing in the wrong country). During this time, the village of Pewaukee and the City of Pewaukee were discussing a possible merger using an “independent study” costing both communities’ taxpayers over $250,000 collectively. That potential merger DIED a year later in no small part to the village’s concern about losing their valued Police Department to the county sheriff in the consolidation.

Jim, I find your “independent study/politically free agenda/save taxpayer dollars” sales pitch to be HOGWASH.

Let’s start with the obvious. I don’t accuse, I am stating a fact. The city of Waukesha’s police department is engaged in an effort to organize opposition to consolidating the city’s dispatch with the county’s. You can agree or disagree with their position, but they are attempting to gather as many opponents as they can to the next Common Council meeting.

As far as intimidation, there are all kinds, but the Sound Off does not mention is how Klein was threatened with recall:

A campaign to recall Mayor Scott Klein from office has been launched by a group calling itself Pewaukee First.

The group’s president/treasurer, Mark Eberhardt, filed a campaign registration statement with the city clerk’s office, which is required by state law before a recall can be initiated.

The group has 60 days to collect the 1,631 signatures necessary to force a recall election. That number represents 25% of the voters in the city who cast ballots in the last governor’s race.

Klein, whose rise to the office came through a recall election, said Wednesday that he is baffled by the recall effort and has done nothing to warrant being removed from office.

He said he believes the recall was started because the city is considering whether to disband its Police Department and contract with the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department for police services to save money.

“Is that what it has come to, when we propose something and it’s all done in the light of day that now we recall you because you’ve got an idea?” Klein said. “Apparently, this guy is a friend of someone in the Police Department. . . . I guess I learned my lesson. You know, you take on a police department, you’re going to pay a price for.”

A similar recall effort was launched in Jackson.

Of course, the Pewaukee and Lisbon stories are really success stories for greater consolidation of services. The sheriff’s department has been handling the police duties for both communities, saving those communities money and providing police service without the controversies that were a problem for the municipal departments the County Sheriff replaced. Someday the village of Pewaukee will see the wisdom of using the Waukesha County Sheriff for it’s policing, too, and remove that as one of the stumbling blocks to the merger of the two Pewaukees.

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