Last week the two top cops in town, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, appeared before the Milwaukee Common Council to address the issue of safety on the county buses. The contrast was quite striking.
Flynn is willing to use his officers in creative ways, adding the patrol of the most trouble-plagued bus routes to their list of duties. Clarke, by contrast, insists on the most expensive ways of policing the buses.
Clarke told the Common Council that G4S, the private security firm that polices the buses, should deploy more personnel on the buses, which would cost county taxpayers more money. This came on the heels of his recent op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggesting the Milwaukee Police should add 200 officers to patrol the buses, which would cost taxpayers a lot of money.
Clarke by now has little credibility on the issues given the many contradictions in his statements. In the wake of his complaints about Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele cutting the Sheriff Department’s budget, he told the council he used to have a targeted enforcement unit of 25 officers that patrolled the parks and buses. But the county budget didn’t cut the targeted enforcement unit’s officer count.
In response to Flynn’s plan to patrol the bus routes and times that typically encounter the most trouble, Clarke suggested that wouldn’t work, saying “There are 400 buses and 57 routes running through the city of Milwaukee. Are you ready to take that on?” But Clarke had earlier told the JS editorial board that his department didn’t provide such universal coverage but “relies on scientific data to target which routes have the most problems and at what particular time of the day the routes require more security.”
Clarke has given the public the impression he wields a mighty force that has had a big impact on bus safety, but data provided by the Milwaukee County Transit System makes his operation look minuscule and distinctly overpriced. Over the last six years, most of the incidents on the buses have been handled by the G4S, formerly known as Wackenhut. The sheriff’s deputies have handled, on average, about 4 percent of the incidents, versus 11 percent for the Milwaukee Police and about 1 percent for suburban police.
G4S has just 20 officers patrolling the buses. Clarke claims he had 25 patrolling the buses and parks, without breaking that number down. But even if 24 of his deputies were patrolling the buses, the results are less than impressive. The Transit System data shows his deputies handled an average of 150 incidents per year, compared to about 2,000 incidents per year handled by G4S.
What explains that massive discrepancy? One possibility is that Clarke, contrary to his claims, is deploying his officers in a very inefficient and unscientific manner. The other is that he is exaggerating the number of officers who were actually patrolling the buses.
Either explanation merely adds to his credibility problem.
The Return of Master Lock
In the 1990s, as manufacturer after manufacturer asked for wage givebacks or moved jobs out of state, Mayor John Norquist would point to Master Lock as a model of how to do business. But then Master Lock joined the trend, outsourcing most of its manufacturing jobs in 1999, first to Mexico and then shipping some to China.
Last week, President Barack Obama hailed the company for “in-sourcing,” moving jobs back to Milwaukee from China, due to labor unrest and rising wage rates there.
That’s good news for this city. But Master Lock President John Heppner offers a familiar lament: Where are the skilled laborers in Milwaukee? So the company is working with technical colleges to recruit potential workers.
That could be a tough sell. For at least 30 years, manufacturers have been deserting Rust Belt cities like Milwaukee, sending a curt message — that manufacturing is no longer a steady, reliable employer — to young people who’ve seen the loss of jobs and economic travails for their parents. When you couple this with the declining salaries (in real dollars) for these workers and then add in the huge escalation in salaries for the CEOs and other top dogs at most manufacturers, you can see the problem they might face trying to attract young workers. Years after such a devastating divorce, it’s hard to woo your old partner back for a remarriage.
The Journal Sentinel has portrayed the 12th aldermanic race on the near South Side as a grudge match between former Ald. Angel Sanchez and incumbent Jim Witkowiak, who could be running against each other for the fourth time. But keep your eyes on Jose Perez, a savvy Hispanic real estate developer who formerly worked in economic development for the city. He may be the upset winner.