Madison’s mayor explains proposed $2 million cut to police budget

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

MADISON, Wis. — Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway says she had to make many difficult decisions in addressing Madison’s $20 million budget shortfall, including making the biggest cuts to the Madison Police Department in more than a decade.

The mayor’s budget proposal calls for a $2 million cut to the police department’s general fund, including moving staff out of that department and into other city departments and requiring spending cuts.

Rhodes-Conway also cited a contract with the police department that was negotiated before she took office, requiring a 3.75% raise for 2021. The mayor asked the police union to renegotiate that contract this year, saying the city couldn’t afford it due to the budget shortfall — a request the union denied. The mayor says the cuts to MPD will now be made regardless of whether the union renegotiates.

Several community members have proposed deeper cuts to the police department in recent months, in wake of calls for police reform. The mayor says her proposed cuts are more “modest” than what some have called for.

Part of the reason for that, she says, is the increase in violent crime the city has seen this year.

“The police have an important job to do in fighting dangerous and violent crime and we are curerntly seeing skyrocketing gun violence in our community,” the mayor said in her statement.

The mayor also cites the city’s future annexation of the Town of Madison and the city’s growth in terms of both geography and population as reasons why she did not further cut the department’s budget. She also says she did not want to put more people out of work during tough economic times than she had to, saying the difference between a 5% cut and a 10% cut in the budget would be 52 additional positions.

Rhodes-Conway says the city is also working on ways to shift the response to certain types of calls from the police department to other departments. That includes investments into a new Violence Prevention Unit with Public Health Madison Dane County and alternative Crisis Response Teams so armed officers aren’t the first responders to every behavorial health call.

“This work of reimagining public safety will continue, and I expect that we will find more ways to shift responsibility from the police department to other types of response,” said Rhodes-Conway.

The budget proposal is now in the hands of the city’s common council, which will review it and make amendments in the coming weeks. The public will also have a chance to get involved in the budget process during that time.