Evers’ Empty Gesture on Crime

March 16, 2022
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell

Like a college student who suddenly realized final exams were coming up and he had better start turning in those essays he was supposed to write months ago, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has had an election-year revelation: he should probably do something about the state’s out-of-control crime rate.

Less than eight months before he stands for re-election—and just seven months after he vetoed a bill that would have penalized local governments that defund their police departments—Evers has committed $50 million in federal funds to fighting crime.

Evers vetoed a bill that would have penalized local governments that defund their police departments just seven months ago.

Well, sort of.  Less than half of that money, $19 million, will go to local law enforcement agencies.  The Milwaukee Police Department, the agency tasked with fighting by far the most crime in Wisconsin and perhaps hit hardest by the “defund” movement over the past quarter century, will receive just $3 million.

By way of comparison, Evers is giving nearly a third of that—$834,337.99—to the Madison Police Department.  The City of Madison had 10 homicides last year and another 10 in 2020.  Milwaukee had 384.  In 2021, Wisconsin saw 315 murders.  Milwaukee’s 194 accounted for nearly 62% of them, yet Governor Evers is allocating just 15% of the funds earmarked for law enforcement agencies to it.

Even worse, Evers envisions that much of the paltry sum actually going to law enforcement will be spent on “training, recruitment bonuses, community policing needs, and technology investments.”  “Training,” naturally, means re-education for officers, while “community policing” tends to result in a reduction in actual policing.  Evers is, after all, the same Governor who disgustingly called the justified police shooting of armed kidnapper Jacob Blake a “merciless” attack motivated by “racism.”

It shouldn’t therefore be surprising that Evers doesn’t see a law enforcement solution to the crime problem, but the sheer ridiculousness of the solutions he has proposed should raise some eyebrows.

Rather than dispatch police officers to dangerous situations, his plan would “integrate licensed mental health clinicians into the city of Milwaukee’s 911 dispatch center.”  Instead of cracking down on the car theft epidemic that is fueling a reckless driving pandemic in the city, Evers aims to “prevent reckless driving through environmental design and upgrades to local roads.”

Evers aims to “prevent reckless driving through environmental design and upgrades to local roads.”

Only someone elected with massive contributions from road-builders unions could run for re-election claiming Milwaukee needs new roads to stop crime but, political cronyism aside, anyone who thinks environmentally friendly streets are the solution to reckless driving in a city where on average a car is stolen every hour is frankly too delusional to be governor.

A greener road would not have stopped the Waukesha Christmas Parade massacre from happening, but bail sufficient to keep the killer in jail on multiple violent felonies (including running over his girlfriend during a fight) would have.  Naturally, none of Evers’ crime prevention money will go toward bail reform or keeping violent repeat offenders off the streets.

The lion’s share of it—$14 million to Milwaukee County and an additional $16 million elsewhere in the state—is going to clear the massive backlog of criminal cases clogging courthouses and leading to the dismissal of thousands of them.  Milwaukee County alone is dealing with a two-year backlog and its District Attorney’s Office is refusing to prosecute 60% of felony cases and 80% of misdemeanors brought before it.

Amazingly, the Milwaukee County Courthouse was shut down for a full 18 months after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Long after most all “non-essential” entities reopened, the courthouse still had only one or two courtrooms open for in-person trials and hearings.  Evers is now using millions of taxpayer dollars to make up for government laziness and COVID panic.

Neither this nor the pittance he has allocated toward actual law enforcement will do much to actually alleviate the state’s growing crime problem, but it’s an election year: All this federal money needs to do is allow Evers to run television ads claiming he “spent $50 million to make Wisconsin safer.”

Just like a college kid trying to convince his professor that he really did turn in that term paper, Evers is making an ultimately empty gesture to fool voters into thinking he cares about cracking down on crime.

Here’s hoping he fails their test come November.