Wis. GOP intros bill to fund gunshot sensors

  • Article by: TODD RICHMOND
  • Associated Press
  • January 16, 2014 - 3:55 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans introduced a bill Thursday to help pay for more gunshot sensors in Milwaukee, abruptly changing course after eliminating expansion dollars in the state budget.

The proposal would funnel $175,000 to the Milwaukee Police Department's ShotSpotter program, a system of audio sensors placed in neighborhoods that captures the sound of gunshots and transmits their location to officers. Police say the system allows them to respond quickly to crime scenes and analyze patterns.

The sensors currently cover 3 square miles; police want to use the state money and a matching $175,000 in the Milwaukee County budget to encompass 10 square miles, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said at a state Capitol news conference introducing the bill.

The state budget Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed last year eliminated $445,400 in grants that police had hoped to use for expansion. Walker served as Milwaukee County executive before he won the governor's office in 2010, but his administration considered the grants an earmark for a single city, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau report.

Republicans who control the Legislature went along with him, wiping out the money in the final version of the budget that took effect in July.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, the bill's chief Senate sponsor and co-chairwoman of the Legislature's powerful budget-writing committee, said during the news conference that circumstances have changed.

Darling said the GOP had to concentrate on paying for Medicaid during budget deliberations. Now the state can afford to put money toward ShotSpotter, in part because the county will cover half the cost of expansion.

"It's not a change of heart for me," she said.

Voss said Republicans have a better grasp of the program now because police explained it to them.

"I'm proud to say we've learned about it. We've taken the time to understand where it's going to go," Vos said. "Most of us weren't familiar with this technology."

Democrats called Vos and Darling's explanations weak.

"We ride in on a high horse as heroes nine months, six months later," Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, who lives near the neighborhood where the new sensors would be deployed, told reporters after the news conference. "It's not good enough to say they didn't understand it. Every legislator that stood up there today voted against that funding."

It's unclear where lawmakers would find the $175,000. Darling said they're looking at "redeploying" existing money.

Vos said he expects the Assembly will vote on the bill in February. The measure also would have to get through the Senate and get Walker's signature before it could become law.

An aide said Walker supports the bill and got a firsthand look at the program during a visit to the Milwaukee Police Department last year. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, called ShotSpotter "fantastic and fascinating" but said members of his caucus need more information before committing the state's money to it.

© 2018 Star Tribune