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Milwaukee Common Council reverses earlier vote, approves COPS Grant

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Milwaukee, WI – Late in the morning on January 19, the members of Milwaukee’s Common Council gathered for a second vote on the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grant. People watched, angered as the council voted 9-6 to accept the grant.

The first time the council voted, back on December 15, the vote was the same (9-6) but to deny the program. In a curious – and perhaps revealing – decision, Alderperson Nikiya Dodd (a previous “no” voter) put forward a motion for the second vote, which was then passed. This time around, Dodd voted “yes,” as did Alderpersons Ashanti Hamilton and Chantia Lewis. Hamilton’s vote is particularly confusing because he gave a self-righteous speech about heeding the words of his constituents and taking the calls to defund the police seriously back in December.

The Common Council included seven conditions as a condition of their decision to accept the grant. The conditions contain some nice words, but organizers in the city remain skeptical about the ability – or the desire – of the council to enforce them.

“There’s no leverage or accountability that the common council has against the police department,” said Omar Flores, one of the co-founders of the renewed Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “It’s bad business giving someone money with no collateral or accountability. What bank would give $10 million to a person that has a bad credit history? The cops have never held up their end of the deal.”

Milwaukee, like many cities around the country, has a Fire and Police Commission. In theory, the FPC exists to check the police, but over the course of its 136-year history, it has proven time and again that it has neither the real power to act or any will to do so. It’s an anti-democratic institution that needs to be done away with.

The alternative? Community control of the police through an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council, or CPAC. The CPAC would give the people democratic control of the Milwaukee Police Department, including issues relating to funding such as the COPS Grant.

“Without genuine accountability, which the FPC has failed to enforce, there’s no reason to believe that MPD will follow through [with the seven conditions],” Flores said.

Despite the defeat represented by the reversal of the vote, activists like Flores and his Milwaukee Alliance comrades are committed to continuing to build a mass movement against police crimes and for community control of the police.


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