MILWAUKEE COUNTY (WITI) -- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and the union for his deputies -- the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Association are suing Milwaukee County. They say a lack of proper funding in the County budget is putting deputies and the public in danger. This, as County Executive Chris Abele says he wonders whether the problem isn't really the amount of money, but rather, how it's being spent.
"It`s not a question of what can be afforded. It`s a question of what is required," Sheriff's Clarke's attorney, Michael Whitcomb said.
On Monday, February 2nd, Sheriff Clarke and the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Association filed a lawsuit against Milwaukee County. The suit claims "Deputy sheriffs are suffering from physical and emotional fatigue," and as a result "deputy sheriffs' lives are in jeopardy."
The Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Association released this statement to FOX6 News:
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office is at a dangerously low staffing levels. Milwaukee County administrators have failed to recognize the essential, and vital role that the Sheriff’s Office plays in regards to protecting our community.
The Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff’s Association supports the hiring of additional staff which is needed for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office to continue serving our community, maintain public safety, along with protecting the employees who risk their lives daily.
County Executive Chris Abele says he's added to the Sheriff's budget, but dozens of other departments need funding too.
"They`re all important. The airport, transit, parks, aging, family care, disability -- these matter to people and when the Sheriff`s Department got the single biggest increase out of all of them by far, it`s not because I don`t care about his needs," Abele said.
In the 2014 budget, the County set aside $74.4 million for the Sheriff's Office. In the 2015 budget, that amount grew to $80.7 million -- an increase of more than $6 million.
"He got an increase and we`re always willing to help if there`s things we can do to help him manage," Abele said.
"The Sheriff has done that, but management of dollars for personnel cannot be achieved successfully without the necessary personnel," Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb adds that as an elected official, Sheriff Clarke doesn't have to accept whatever budget Abele provides.
"He`s responsible only to the voters. He`s not an officer of the County. He is not legally, in my opinion, subject to the opinions of the County as to what funds are necessary to fulfill his duties as Sheriff," Whitcomb said.
Abele says he understands the argument, but maintains there's a better way to handle this disagreement.
"I don`t think it`s anybody`s idea of the best way to solve things -- through litigation, especially when taxpayers are paying for lawyers on all sides," Abele said.
In all, Sheriff Clarke wants to hire 135 new employees -- 75 deputy sheriffs, 10 deputy sheriff sergeants and 43 correctional officers -- and seven correctional officer lieutenants.