Is Milwaukee City Hall Prepared For A Security Threat?

Oct 26, 2018

Some Milwaukee Common Council members are worried about how City Hall would respond to an actual security threat. The concerns come as authorities continue to investigate the suspicious packages mailed to top Democratic leaders in a number of cities around the United States this week.

About a month ago, someone mailed an envelope containing a powdery substance to the office of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. An employee opened the envelope. Eventually, the mayor's offices were evacuated and emergency vehicles were called. The substance was later found to be not harmful. 

At a meeting Thursday of the Common Council's Public Safety and Health Committee, Ald. Milele Coggs said that Sept. 28 incident led to confusion in City Hall.

Coggs says the city currently is without an emergency response official and City Hall building lacks widely-known safety protocols. This week's mailing of potential explosives to public officials in other U.S. cities reminded her that Milwaukee's City Hall needs to be prepared.

“The reality of us being in a building and being in a profession that unfortunately attracts oftentimes a level of activities like the bomb threats, like anthrax in letters is the reason you have an emergency person and the reason you have emergency protocols to deal with these," Coggs said.

She's not just concerned about elected officials, but also for other workers at City Hall and the building’s many public visitors.

City Clerk James Owczarski shared his worries at the committee meeting. He's an evacuation manager for City Hall but says the training he's received is out of date.

"It has only accounted for fire. It has not accounted for things that have been raised with me, unfortunately, the days we live in — an active shooter, an anthrax [attack], and very tragically, as we all found out yesterday, a bomb threat," Owczarski said.

Clifton Crump of Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission told the alderpersons that the city has a plan to merge two emergency management positions and have someone on the job by early next year. A previous manager left about six months ago.