October 3, 2022 – Washington Co., WI – The responsibility to maintain order and protect the citizenry is the most important duty of government. According to Constitutional law, the State Legislature and Governor have the authority to enact laws that law enforcement utilizes to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of their residents.
Failure to provide the measures necessary to deliver a safe and secure environment leads to the erosion of the community. Washington County is the #1 County in the State of Wisconsin for the quality of life. That is, in no small measure, due to the efforts of our local law enforcement agencies. Problem is, that your Washington County Sheriff’s Department is woefully understaffed. Local Police Departments depend on the Sheriff’s Department to assist them with high-risk incidents, accident reconstruction, crime scene investigations and generally stand at the ready to support your local police in any way necessary when requested. Teamwork is paramount to maintain order and protect the community.
In November, Washington County voters will have the opportunity to decide to add staff to place your Sheriff’s Department in a better position to address the constantly evolving crime environment. There has been a general lack of accurate information reported by some of our local pundits as to the appropriateness of asking the residents to approve a referendum adding $3.6 million to the tax levy. Staffing for the Sheriff’s Department remains at the same level it was in 1982, 40 years ago. According to the US Census Bureau, the population of Washington County was just under 85,000 in 1980. Today the population is over 136,000. That is more than 1 ½ times the population 40 years ago. Due to sound management and dedicated staff, the Sheriff has provided for the public safety, but we are but a few major incidents away from lacking the ability to properly manage those events.
Due to the sound and conservative fiscal management of Washington County, even with absorbing the hit to the tax levy, your tax rate will again decrease, from $2.06 to $1.97 per $thousand of assessed value. That means your county taxes, based on the assessed value of your home, will go down, as they have each year since 2015. Utilizing priority-based budgeting in the County’s the budget process, allowed for funding to be redirected to the services most necessary to serve the community. The County Board also determined that the #1 priority was public safety. Public safety is the linchpin that makes all the other services that the county provides possible. Without adequate resources, the ability to properly protect our citizens wanes and all other services will not matter. Without the safety and security that our Sheriff’s Department provides, we would not have the quality of life that we all enjoy.
Years of judicious budgeting by the Sheriff has served our community well. But times are changing. Defunding police and a lack of respect for the rule of law has caused a marked increase in crime in urban areas that is spreading into our community. Drug and human trafficking are here in Washington County. Recently, a 4 hour targeted interdiction effort in the I-41 corridor produced several felony arrests, including a person wanted in Milwaukee for homicide. I-41 is a key access route that is utilized by criminals moving drugs between Milwaukee and the Paper Valley. At its’ current staffing, targeted enforcement such as this cannot be utilized enough to make a difference. Adding staff will; enable the Sheriff to increase minimum staffing beyond the current 5 Deputies per shift that cover Washington County’s 436 square miles, decrease response times, limit overtime pay for Deputies to cover for sick calls or vacation, add additional detectives that can dedicate more time to investigate crimes, and enable the creation of a critical incident team consisting of Deputies and social workers trained to respond to mental health crises that will evaluate and transport mentally ill persons, freeing up local police departments from that responsibility.
Public safety is paramount to a growing and vibrant community. It is vitally important to be prepared for all emergency situations. Seconds lost can often make the difference between life and death. Fiscal austerity is not a valid rationale to cut corners on public safety. Government fails if a safe and secure environment cannot be provided to its’ citizens. Bringing your Sheriff’s Department up to speed is a logical and necessary step that will serve our community well, now and into the future.
Village of Germantown, WI
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