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Milwaukee Common Council Approves New Officer Training, Part-Time Hires

Michelle Maternowski


The Milwaukee Common Council Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal that would have police cadets train at MATC and for the city to hire part-time officers.  The resolution now goes to Mayor Tom Barrett.

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Milwaukee could be looking at a future of part-time and seasonal police officers patrolling the city. The common council is meeting Wednesday to discuss the proposal. It also includes training police officers at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

“We are all challenged with the fiscal situations impacting the city of Milwaukee for quite some time, and I think we have an obligation to realize that, and think outside the box, and be as creative as possible given these challenges that we face year, after year, after year," Alderman Bob Donovan said earlier this month when introducing the resolution he co-sponsored. 

At that Public Safety and Health Committee meeting, he went on to say that the city has been going “in the wrong direction” when it comes to staffing in the police and fire departments, and that a police training proposal he’s brought up in the past could be a solution.

“Essentially what I’m suggesting is that we train them at MATC and not hire them as full officers until they complete that training," Donovan outlined. "As things are now, we hire the recruits and pay them while they’re going through the Milwaukee Police Academy.”

His idea, he said, could save approximately $1 million in taxpayer money for every 100 officers that go through the academy.

Recruits already have to pass the written, oral, physical, and psychological exams and background checks before they can be hired. Donovan’s proposal adds MATC training to the list. “The city would pay their tuition, but we wouldn’t pay those recruits a salary until after that 18-week course is completed,” he added.

Current training at MATC, as well as training facilities throughout the state, is 720 hours – an equivalent to those 18 weeks.

Russ Spahn, the associate dean of protective services at MATC, explains how the current police training program works: “Once a student is accepted into our program, it’s a very intense program, it teaches them to be a police officer. When they complete that entire course, they are what we would call certifiable, meaning that a law enforcement agency can hire them, then at their discretion make them a sworn officer of the law.”

Spahn says the school is looking forward to the opportunity for collaboration - if the time comes.

Donovan also wants the city to hire part-time/seasonal police officers. He said it would be another way to save the city money and to bring officers on in the busy summer months, when the need for officers is higher than other times of the year.

“I want to avoid cutting more cops," Donovan said. "I’m suggesting that we have seasonal, part-time, perhaps 40 maybe 50 positions of those officers that would then be brought on in the summer months when we need them the most. And we’re saving half the salary there again."

The part-time officers would have all the training of the full-time officers and arrest powers.

If the proposal passes the council, representatives from the police department, MATC, and other city offices will meet to map out the project.

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