Wisc. chief considers speeding up academy time

By Mary Yeater Rathbun
The Capital Times
MADISON, Wisc.  Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said this morning that he is considering an accelerated police academy for 2008 in order to get the 18 new officers that Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has agreed to include in next year's budget.

It usually takes nine months from May, when the annual police academy starts, to January of the next year to get officers onto the street, he said. Under an accelerated police academy plan, the department would shorten the number of days of classroom training so that officers starting training in May 2008 would be available to work on the street before the end of that same year.

To make it work, however, he added that the department would be recruiting people with prior law enforcement experience for the 2008 academy.

Last year, the department dealt with an unusual number of dropouts from the academy. Twenty-one started the training, but seven failed to complete it. Of this year's class, all 34 remain in the academy.

In order to add 18 officers to the force in 2008, Wray said he would expect to have a police academy class of about 44 people, some of whom replace retiring or outgoing officers.

"While this will be another tight budget, we will make sure that the police have the resources they need to address the public safety issues in our community," Cieslewicz said this morning. "Public safety will be my top priority in this budget." The most officers added in a single year in the last 20 years was in 1994. That year, during what was considered a serious crime surge, 15 officers were added to the force. Since then, the city has added 63 officers, 18 on Cieslewicz's watch.

Adding 18 new officers next year would cost $891,000, according to City Comptroller Dean Brasser. These dollars are part of a $2.1 million supplemental budget request that Wray made.

Cieslewicz had asked Wray to come in with a budget of $51.1 million for 2008. That is an increase of 1.9 percent over the department's 2007 budget of $50.1 million. In his July 11 budget instruction, Cieslewicz asked all his department heads except police, fire and the city clerk to come up with 2008 budgets that were 3 percent less than their 2007 allocation.

With the $2.1 million supplemental request, Wray's 2008 budget request comes to $52.2 million, or a more than 4 percent increase over 2007.

The City Council has the final say on the budget, and Ald. Brenda Konkel said today she is disappointed that the council still doesn't have a $60,000 police staffing study authorized last fall.

"The whole point was to see if we have the right number of officers," Konkel said.

Wray said he never expected to have the results of that study in time to guide his 2008 budget request. Assistant Chief John Davenport, who is heading the project, said the consultant hasn't begun the work authorized last November.

Wray said he had talked at length with Cieslewicz about what was practical and possible to do. Wray said that he would have really liked 27 additional officers, which would bring the department to the target ratio of 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents recommended by a 2003 study. For the past 10 or 12 years, the target has been 1.8 officers per thousand.

Wray said that most cities Madison's size have a ratio of two officers per 1,000 residents, but that the 2003 study group had not recommended that based on population increase expectations and other factors.

Konkel, though, countered that Madison has several police forces that could be counted in the calculation.

"We have this formula, but it doesn't count Capitol police, University police," she said. "So it's hard to know if we need 18 officers or not without data."
Copyright 2007 Capital Newspapers

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