KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV) – Wisconsin police forces and recruitment are at an all-time low over the last ten years.
Rep. Jim Steineke (R)-Kaukauna said, “There are currently 13,576 law enforcement officers in Wisconsin. Only 766 people entered the profession in Wisconsin last year.”
Police departments across the valley said additional funding is necessary to help fill their staffing gaps and recruit more officers to the state.
Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas said, “Our challenge has always been finding funding for bonus pay and for recruitment pay. And paying for recruit academy and a lot of these issues are one’s we’ve tried to tackle in the past.”
The bill package includes $1 million for a ‘Pro-Cop Wisconsin Campaign.’ Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka said community support is crucial for the success of police departments.
“I think it really kinda sends that resonating message to that law enforcement community across the board knowing that they are supported,” said Styka. “And I think that’s the message that kinda got lost over the last couple of years.”
The bill creates a matching grant program for small agencies to onboard new officers.
Rep. Kevin Petersen (R)-Waupaca said, “For overwhelmingly small departments that rely on part-time officers, onboarding an officer can be expensive, it costs approximately $4,500.”
There is also funding to help pay officers’ police academy costs.
Cheif Jamie Graff, Kaukauna Police Department said, “I think giving municipalities or police departments funding to help send those people to school would be a good option and for a lot of agencies who struggle finding qualified people and getting them to the recruit school and getting the payment for that.”
Democrats said they agree police departments need funding but reminded listeners Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul already proposed $115 million worth of funding in November.
Rep. Lee Snodgrass, (D)-Appleton said, “I understand from my inquires that the Wisconsin Republicans did not work with the Kaul office so today really feels a little disingenuous for me.”
She said she is concerned this funding is from one-time federal grants and there is no long-term plan to provide this additional funding.
“It’s also important to note that primarily the way cities fund police and fire is through shared revenue and the state of Wisconsin shared revenue was flat in the GOP budget,” said Snodgrass. “Governor Evers proposed an increase in shared revenue which would have provided more funding for local municipalities to invest and recruit more officers.”
The bill’s architects said they hope money can go to officers the second the bill is signed by the governor.