Angering some officers, the MPA’s board has decided to stay neutral in the Milwaukee mayor’s race, even though Bob Donovan is staunchly pro-police, and Cavalier Johnson is an anti-police chameleon, who shifts positions to earn votes. Hasn’t the MPA learned that appeasement of anti-cop liberals always backfires?
Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson has tried to dishonestly “remake” himself for the April election against Bob Donovan, pretending to be tough on public safety and supportive of police. However, less than two years ago, he was one of the leading advocates at City Hall pushing for defunding the Milwaukee Police Department so severely it would eliminate the equivalent of two police districts and the sensitive crimes unit.
He once referred to the police as an oppressive institution that caused “death” to people of color. He once advocated sending a controversial BLM leader to respond to violent crimes instead of police. That man is on federal pretrial release on accusations he was involved in a failed plot to firebomb a Milwaukee police district station, involving children.
On March 29, 2022, Johnson admitted to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he “hasn’t yet had time to implement the full public safety plan he proposed at the beginning of his tenure.” He said he had to spend time campaigning.
Despite all of that, angering some rank-and-file officers, the Milwaukee Police Association’s board has decided to stay neutral in the race, even though Donovan, a former alderman, is a staunchly pro-police candidate. Hasn’t the Milwaukee Police Association learned appeasement of anti-cop liberals always backfires?
Violent crime has skyrocketed under Johnson’s Common Council leadership since 2020 in Milwaukee, with two years of record homicide numbers at levels unheard of in the city’s history. Homicide this year is set to outpace even that.
In short, Johnson’s record as an alderman and Common Council president was ANTI-POLICE and ANTI-PUBLIC SAFETY. He’s tried to change the terminology, saying in 2020 that he supported “reallocating” police funds, but it all amounted to the same thing: Johnson was for defunding the police – before he began running for mayor.
We decided to examine Johnson’s record on policing because of his chameleon-like rebranding, a classic trait of progressives, for the mayoral election. We found a politician who repeatedly stressed shifting police resources, rushed to judgment in a high-profile use-of-force case, praised Black Lives Matter, and implied some police might be white supremacists.
1. Johnson Wanted to Slash the Police Department’s Budget by 10%
In June 2020, a Milwaukee Magazine article headlined “What Does ‘Defund the Police’ Mean in Milwaukee?” put the effort at the feet of Johnson, then the Common Council president. By how much did Johnson want to defund the Milwaukee police?
This requires the budget office to present the council w/ a model budget w/ 10% reduction – $30M. More money for violence prevention, housing, etc. Police funding is broken and community-police relations needs to re-examined. This helps us to see how that might happen. pic.twitter.com/QvsFSAdjgO
— Cavalier Johnson (@CavalierJohnson) June 15, 2020
“The Milwaukee Common Council passed legislation on June 15 directing the city’s budget director to decrease the police department’s budget by 10% in the 2021 city budget model,” the story noted. It said the measure was co-sponsored by Johnson and another alderman. The plan suggested reducing the force in multiple ways including “Sworn personnel layoffs” and “Establishing an alternative first-response service outside of the Police Department,” according to The Milwaukee Record.
Ten percent was a big hit, especially for a police force that had already seen a reduction of sworn officers by 18% since the mid-1990s. It was a $30 million hit, amounting to a decrease of 375 police officers. Johnson told Milwaukee Magazine he wanted to look “at the entire institution of policing.”
That amounts to a decrease in the number of sworn officers on the street by more than 20 percent.
Among other things, the Johnson-sponsored resolution to cut the police budget by 10 percent wanted to divert the millions of dollars from the police budget to services and agencies “that work to address racism.” (Johnson proved even more extreme than then Mayor Tom Barrett, who ended up cutting the force by 120 officers by not filling positions.)
That same year, the Milwaukee Police Department fired back, raising the fact that another 60 police officer positions lost to attrition through a previous city budget, tweeting, “MPD is committed to serving our community with the resources we are afforded. However, the Mayor and Common Council reduced our budget by 60 police officers this year. The homicide rate has more than doubled & non-fatal shootings have increased by over 35% since 2019. #DidYouKnow.”
MPD also tweeted that the Johnson-authored proposal would be the equivalent of “shutting down District 5, District 7 and Sensitive Crimes,” noting that in 2019, MPD lost 60 officers in a budget reduction and “the homicide rate [in Milwaukee] has more than doubled & non-fatal shootings have increased by over 35%.”
Johnson responded with a snarky tweet trashing MPD for fighting back. “I don’t know how that @MilwaukeePolice tweet got out of the door in the first place but, any similar ones should just stay in the drafts,” he tweeted.
In a press release full of petty barbs, Johnson wrote, “I am calling on MPD to immediately remove this post. Putting the information contained in this tweet aside, issuing political jabs at local Milwaukee leaders in a forum such as this is a misuse of resources. We must work to heal and improve our community together and not resort to petty social media barbs.”
The Milwaukee Police Department’s recent Tweet was in response to comments related to questions regarding defunding police and how that would impact the City of Milwaukee. The information in the statement is factual. MPD looks forward to positive dialogue in the future.
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) June 12, 2020
MPD fought back, tweeting, “The Milwaukee Police Department’s recent tweet was in response to comments related to questions regarding defunding police and how that would impact the City of Milwaukee. The information in the statement is factual. MPD looks forward to positive dialogue in the future.”
2. Johnson Wanted BLM leaders Frank Nitty & Vaun Mayes to Defuse Violent Situations Instead of Police
In 2020, Johnson said, during a joint interview with BLM leader Frank Nitty (who would later be accused, but not charged, of sexual assault), “Our present law enforcement system just isn’t working anymore.”
In that interview, Johnson said that, instead of sending police to some “potential violence situations, “What we need is a system to call on this other resource like Frank or Vaun Mayes to diffuse potential violence situations.”
Mayes is still on federal pretrial release in the alleged firebombing plot, federal charges filed in 2018. He was as well when Johnson made the comments.
The most recent federal court activity in Mayes’ case was a “joint status report” filed by the government and Mayes on March 17, 2022, requesting a teleconference hearing to “discuss a pretrial litigation and trial schedule,” according to federal records obtained by Wisconsin Right Now.
Johnson said to the magazine: “For decades and centuries, in the United States, these kinds of institutions, and policing is no different, have caused oppression and death to people of color, primarily Black people.”
3. Johnson Suggested Local Police Departments Had Contingents of White Supremacists
Johnson said in 2020 that it was “not out of the realm of imagination at all” to believe local police departments have contingents of white supremacists as officers. He also said he believed it was “dangerous” that police officers who could come from the rural and northern parts of Wisconsin, where people are “fearful of Milwaukee and the people in it,” don’t have to live in Milwaukee.
Johnson told a UW Alumni news site: “Growing up, I would hear that in local police departments, there were contingents of officers that were sort of associated with groups like that [white supremacists]. It’s not out of the realm of imagination at all. The more screening we can do, the better. People in other parts of this state have issues against Milwaukee for a number of reasons. I’m sure that some of those reasons are not just because it’s a big city but also because of the racial makeup of Milwaukee. So there are racial undertones or even overtones.”
4. Johnson Supports Black Lives Matter & Suggested White Cops From Waukesha Might Be Prejudiced
Of Black Lives Matter, Johnson once said, “I do find optimism in that movement,” and he told the Shepherd Express, “I support Black Lives Matter.”
He also told the Shepherd Express that, because of the residency rule being lifted for Milwaukee police officers, “you might get a white cop from Waukesha moving through the inner city with a gun. His first reaction might be fear because of his prejudice.”
Although some BLM protests have been peaceful, others have degenerated into riots, with abuse being hurled against police officers, and arson fires.
5. Johnson Opposed Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Criminals
Johnson urged the state Legislature to reduce tough sentencing approaches for criminals. In 2017, he co-sponsored a resolution that called for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, at a time the state Legislature was considering imposing them for violent, repeat felons with guns. The Neighborhood News Service summarized Johnson’s stance, writing, “The idea that harsher penalties and stricter enforcement deters individuals from engaging in crime is simply false, Johnson said.”
Johnson was first elected to the Milwaukee Common Council in 2016; he became Council president in 2020 and acting mayor in late 2021.
6. Johnson Misled the Public About Adding Officers But Admitted to Wisconsin Right Now That He Won’t Commit
As a mayoral candidate, Johnson has shifted to misleading claims that he wants to maintain the police budget and add nearly 200 officers to trick voters; he admitted to Wisconsin Right Now that he actually doesn’t support increasing the number of officers on the force unless the state forks over more money (but he’s applauded the state giving millions to the “Office of Violence Prevention,” which is under the auspices of the city Health Department).
The nearly 200 figure doesn’t take into account retirements and the like, so it really amounts to more defunding, just camouflaged in crafty and misleading language. He told the Journal Sentinel on March 29, 2022, that he wants “funding to adequately staff the police,” without saying what that means. As he geared up to run for mayor, he suddenly sounded more pro-police, suggesting police officers should be back in schools and supporting a federal COPS grant that funded 30 cops (those things are good).
But he admitted to us that he doesn’t want to increase the number of police officers on the streets.
Johnson told us in February 2022 that he won’t “commit” to increasing the number of officers on the shrinking Milwaukee police force because the city needs to take care of other “challenges” instead, such as plowing snow, funding libraries, and picking up garbage.
In 2020, Johnson tweeted, “Police budgets that take such a substantial portion of a city’s funds make it difficult to invest in addressing the root problems that lead to police being called.” He added, “We do spend a lot on police and if left unchecked, that number would continue to skyrocket. So, studying ways to get that down is responsible.”
Yet he’s claimed on Twitter, “We didn’t defund police in Milwaukee.” He alleges on Twitter that “Police costs have risen by $115M since 2003,” missing the point that the number of sworn officers has plummeted over the years and that, since he’s been on the Common Council, he’s repeatedly advocated to shift resources elsewhere.
He explained in a tweet, “We spend nearly half of the general fund on police. Even with fewer officers in ‘21, police cost will remain ~same as they are now. Losing officers by attrition hasn’t meant that we’ve spending less on police.”
But he admitted: “The same amount of dollars no longer covers as many personnel.”
Bottom line: He’s pushed for actions that would amount to fewer officers on the streets (the 10 percent decrease especially), and that’s where the rubber meets the road; fewer officers on the streets means less time to do crime prevention, lower clearance rates, and, arguably, skyrocketing homicide numbers.
In a TV ad, Johnson claimed, “I led the fight to add 200 new police officers to make our city safer.”
The media have repeatedly fallen for this canard.
Both candidates for #Milwaukee Mayor @CavalierJohnson and @AldermanDonovan want more cops. City budgeted for 195 new officers, but MPD has 212 current vacancies and dozens eligible to retire. Tonight, we ask the Milwaukee Police Assoc if finding more cops is realistic pic.twitter.com/7xK8gyRVDu
— Hillary Mintz WISN (@WISN_MINTZ) February 16, 2022
What he doesn’t tell voters, and what Politifact noted, is that “The budget office was still expecting an overall decrease of about two-dozen officer positions in 2022, even with the additional 195.”
Johnson claimed: “We maintained (Milwaukee Police Department) strength.” Politifact noted: “based on expected retirements, those recruits will simply maintain the department’s size, not increase it.” And “maintaining” the force means maintaining a significant decrease in the number of officers on the streets.
We reported in January 2021 that the Milwaukee police force has decreased by hundreds of officers – nearly 18% – since 1995 (and 4.5% from 2019 to 2020). The number of sworn officers is the lowest in at least 25 years. Since then, it’s dropped further. Andrew Wagner, MPA president, told us in February 2022: “Our numbers for ending year 2021 are at 1624 actual officers / Budgeted for 1855 leaving us 231 short at the end of 2021. This does not include the 180 officers they removed from our budget in the previous years.” In 1996, there were 2,176 sworn officers on MPD. Years of crime decreases followed.
So maintaining the force is maintaining a steep drop at a time of historic homicide numbers.
7. Johnson said Black People Have Been Maimed & Murdered by Police for Decades
In 2020, Johnson said, in a UW Alumni publication, “for decades, Black people and people of color have been hurt, maimed, and murdered by law enforcement.” He was asked about the Jacob Blake shooting (in which the officer in Kenosha was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a Democrat District Attorney) and said, “Folks here are marching in the street in solidarity with the family of Mr. Blake.”
8. Johnson Wanted to End Cooperation Between ICE and the MPD, a Liberal Group Touts
Johnson supports ending cooperation between ICE and police, according to the left-wing pro illegal immigrant group Voces de la Frontera.
.@CavalierJohnson is the best candidate for #Milwaukee's immigrant and working families. He supports ending collaboration between ICE and police, a $15/hr minimum wage, and more (visit https://t.co/DLWj7T7myh). Photo of Christine Neumann-Ortiz, ED of VDLFA, and Mayor Johnson. pic.twitter.com/YOHuedqppo
— Voces de la Frontera Action (@VDLF_Action) March 11, 2022
9. Johnson Pushes Funding the Office of Violence Prevention, Declaring He Was ‘Eternally Grateful’ to Evers
In February 2022, Johnson declared that he was “eternally grateful” to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for sending millions of dollars to fund the “Office of Violence Prevention,” instead of adding more cops to the streets. He’s constantly pushed for more state funding, but when millions came the city’s way from the state, he was ecstatic it went to the vague and ineffective Office of Violence Prevention.
WRN has filed an open records request to scrutinize what that office spends its money on; its website listed nothing on the office’s calendar but described events like “denim day,” brochures on gun safety, and a youth summit on guns.
Johnson told Fox 6 that “police culture might be the problem.”
10. Johnson Wanted Pepper Spray Banned for ‘Peaceful Demonstrations’
Johnson urged the Fire and Police Commission to adopt new use-of-force and restraint procedures, including a ban on police using pepper spray at what he called peaceful demonstrations.
Then Chief Morales documented that demonstrates were not peaceful, according to Newsweek.
11. Johnson Rushed to Judgment Against the Officer Who Shot Jacob Blake; Riots & Arson Fires Ensued
According to Courthouse News, Johnson said the Jacob Blake shooting meant police reform was necessary, saying it was “yet another example of the deep-seated inequities that exist for Black residents across our city, state and country.” Again, the officer was later cleared of wrongdoing.
12. Johnson Threw Chief Morales Under the Bus Without Good Reason
According to Newsweek, once then Chief Alfonso Morales declared his intention to retire and file suit against Milwaukee (after an appalling violation of his due process), Johnson said Morales “appeared unwilling and unable to authentically engage with the community in a way that honored residents’ perspectives.” Johnson further said, “Morales showed resistance to moving forward with “more collaborative, equitable, and transparent policing.”
Morales had the full support of the Milwaukee Police Association who called Morales “a man who fought for everyone.”
“Chief Morales is a person who cares for Milwaukee,” read an August MPA statement. “Chief Morales grew up in this city. He devoted his career to this city. But you took Chief Morales from the citizens of Milwaukee. You should be ASHAMED of yourselves.”