MILWAUKEE (CN) - Milwaukee County is jeopardizing officer and citizen safety in refusing to grant the sheriff's budget requests, that official claims in a new lawsuit.
Sheriff David Clarke Jr. and the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Association sued the county Monday, demanding immediate relief of alleged gross understaffing.
"The 2015 county budget's elimination of deputy sheriff and correctional officer positions has placed public safety in jeopardy and has led to the physical and emotional exhaustion of deputy sheriffs and correctional officers who are required to work an excessive amount of overtime," the complaint states.
With 245 funded deputy positions in his department, Clarke says he unsuccessfully requested an additional 119 deputies for 2015.
"Because of county budgets, Sheriff Clarke has not been able to hire a new deputy sheriff since 2002," according to the complaint.
Since the training process for deputies takes at least a year, the need to hire new staff is urgent, Clarke says.
Further, the county budget "decimated" sheriff correctional positions, establishing a more favorable supervisor-officer ratio for the county-run House of Corrections, according to the complaint.
"The 2015 county budget provided adequate supervisory staff for House of Corrections under the Office of County Executive but not for the jail under the Office of Sheriff," Clarke says.
All this understaffing is costing the public and the officers, who are required to carry firearms in what are now unsafe working conditions, the complaint states.
"Milwaukee County's actions have caused an increase in: squad accidents, work place injuries, stress and anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and early retirements," the complaint states.
County budget documents meanwhile blast Clarke for creating a "significant deficit" by filling unfunded administrative positions in 2014.
The 2015 budget also included a sentence pointing out Milwaukee is a fully incorporated county, with every municipality's police force handling its own jurisdiction.
Clarke and the union's complaint comes after the sheriff was allocated an additional $3.9 million in tax revenue for 2015, the budget states.
The sheriff says the county must "immediately" make available an appropriate number of additional budgeted positions for deputy sheriffs "to provide Sheriff Clarke the flexibility and ability to meet his constitutional and statutory duties."
He and the union seek an immediate injunction, a declaration of unsafe working conditions and a writ of mandamus requiring the county to bargain with the deputies' union.
The union is represented by Christopher MacGillis with MacGillis Wiemer, and the sheriff is represented by Michael Whitcomb.