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Guest Editorial | We must back Wisconsin Law Enforcement | By Rep. Rick Gundrum

May 20, 2024 – Washington Co., WI – Last week, the 34th Annual Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony was held at the State Capitol in Madison. This solemn occasion honors those law enforcement officers who died while serving their communities.

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This past year saw a tragic uptick in the number of deaths of law enforcement officers. Four officers were killed over 88 days in 2023, the largest number of line-of-duty deaths since 2000. There are now 293 names on the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial.

As we celebrate National Police Week, we must acknowledge that more must be done to support law enforcement in Wisconsin. Radical calls to defund the police – the very men and women who work to keep our streets safe – have only made crime worse. From 2022 to 2023, the number of officers has dropped from 13,384 to 13,139. This continues a trend that started in 2008. That is why I was happy to join my Republican colleagues in putting forward legislation that helps our police officers and reduces crime.

A historic shared revenue bill was passed during the legislative session to support Wisconsin’s counties, cities, villages, and towns with new investments and incentivizing innovation. Crucially, the shared revenue bill included a number of reforms to increase public safety. It required that all new local revenue be used for law enforcement, fire departments, EMS, public works, and transportation. It also created a law enforcement maintenance of effort based on service level for municipalities and required the crime-plagued City of Milwaukee to increase filled officer positions.

There is a reduction of aid if service is not maintained. The measures within the bill were specifically designed to prevent defunding the police.

This bill received bipartisan support and was signed into law as 2023 Wisconsin Act 12.

Additional funds were provided in another bill to double the reimbursement for the annual
recertification training from $160 to $320 per officer. Currently, recruits are required to have 24 hours of recertification training per year and they are in need of updated training to match the growing demands within our communities.

Police officers and deputies are not the only members of law enforcement that are necessary to maintain public safety. Correctional officers are also important members of our public safety teams by keeping criminals incarcerated. Unfortunately, prisons throughout our state have faced significant staffing vacancies. Many of our current correctional officers are overworked when it comes to filling these gaps.

That’s why the biennial budget allocated $344 million to increase wages for security staff at state correctional facilities. Starting wages will rise to $33 per hour from $20.29 per hour, along with funding add-ons depending on the level of security and high-vacancy prisons.

All officers for law enforcement agencies, jails, or juvenile detention facilities play an essential role in keeping our streets safe and guaranteeing that those who commit crimes are held accountable.

I am proud of all we have accomplished for law enforcement in our state this session and am thankful for their service to our communities. I’m sure many constituents in the 58th Assembly District think the same way.

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