The Trump administration is investing millions of dollars into a new initiative aimed at reducing violent crime in seven American cities. Milwaukee is participating in the new program, which is called Operation Relentless Pursuit.
U.S. Attorney Matt Krueger says the program aims to increase the number of federal law enforcement officers.
"The initiative involves a surge of federal resources to help prosecute the most violent individuals, gang members, drug traffickers, those who are using firearms illegally," Krueger says.
The surge in federal agents comes along with a financial commitment of $9.7 million that will be used to hire 27 new police officers in Milwaukee, pay overtime and benefits, and provide new equipment and technology. Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales welcomed the resources, saying they couldn’t come at a better time.
“It's going to alleviate some of the costs to the city. We're hurting," Morales says. "The pandemic is not helping anyone financially. And to have this assistance coming from Washington. We can't thank you enough.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also celebrated the additional resources. In the 2020 city budget, he increased the police department's budget but reduced the number of sworn officers by 60. The department currently has 1,804 officers, with an estimated budget of $298.3 million. Money that Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing Communities, says is poorly invested.
“I think every time that we put more and more money into the police department, we're actually doing a disservice and we're actually not solving crime at all,” Lang says.
Lang contends that the Milwaukee Police Department has a history of gross misconduct and there is a deep mistrust of law enforcement among black and brown communities.
“I definitely don't think it's going to help actually build trust within the community, adding more police officers and investing more into a police department is not the solution. And that's not how you build trust in a community that's already really hurt and traumatized, and a lot of times, at the hands of the police department,” says Lang.
The DOJ announcement comes at a time when the police department is facing renewed scrutiny. A Milwaukee police officer was charged with first-degree reckless homicide on Wednesday in an incident that took place at the officer's home.