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Tosa mayor candidates see chief as key collaborator on police budget

Jan. 31, 2012

Each week leading up to the April election, Wauwatosa NOW will ask the candidates running for mayor one question about an issue facing the city. The candidates have been limited to 150-word answers.

The three candidates - Peter Donegan, Kathy Ehley and John Pokrandt - will be narrowed down to two contenders with a primary election Feb. 21.

Readers are encouraged to submit questions they'd like the candidates to address by sending an email to reporter Stefanie Scott at sscott@cninow.com.

Q. The Police Department accounts for about a quarter of the city's overall operations budget, but it also one of the most visible and called-upon services within Wauwatosa. How would you balance protecting safety with the costs of fighting crime? Are there specific police services or positions you would consider cutting or changing?

Peter Donegan

A. As mayor, I won't compromise our high standards of police coverage, response and investigation.

This said, a flat-revenue forecast creates the imperative to relentlessly pursue productivity/efficiency improvements in all departments. Police Department compensation is 25 percent of the total city budget. Annual wage/benefit costs of a single officer exceeds $100,000. So, management of these tax dollars must be exquisite.

My approach to the Police Department would be: Our citizens honor and respect your service and expertise. Now it's up to the department to explore all operational practices and prove to our citizens that our methods are optimally efficient.

I should note that the 2012 police budget is a modest 4 percent higher than it was four years ago (while reducing crime rate). That's a notable record of improvement. However, we have no choice but to pursue and hope for more. I have the résumé and disposition to do just that.

Kathy Ehley

Safety and security is essential to the quality of life that we enjoy in Wauwatosa. It's a top priority to ensure our police force remains strong and effective in providing safety throughout the city. The police chief is responsible for setting goals and measurements for achievement within the department's budget as set by the mayor and council. He is the professional and authority to effectively and efficiently manage the department's resources determining the cost/benefit impact of any changes.

When serious cuts need to be considered, I will work responsibly and collaboratively with the chief along with input from residents and the business community. As executive director of the Village business area, I have significant experience working with the Police Department on safety issues. As mayor, I will continue to cultivate a climate of trust, confidentiality and cooperation with the chief and I will expect no less from him.

John Pokrandt

A. Crime rates in Wauwatosa have been decreasing over the past four years as a result of the dedicated and hard work of our police. In Wauwatosa, our ratio of officers per 1,000 residents is actually below the state average, while our daytime population is around 125,000 people. Yet, our police response rates are among the quickest in the metro area. Our clearance rate for solving crimes is very high. I don't believe cutting services or positions in the Police Department serves our long-term interests. As mayor, I don't believe there's such a thing as an acceptable level of crime in trade for a reduction in public safety spending. Public safety is a major part of protecting our quality of life. I will strive to maintain full staffing of our Police Department and focus on community outreach and education to continue our trend of year-over-year crime rate reduction.

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