A letter in the July 31 Tomahawk Leader:
To the Editor:
"Madison,” 75 square miles surrounded by reality. As you may or may not know, the state budgetary process is at an impasse. It is currently set to be resolved by a committee composed of eight legislative leaders from the Assembly-run Republicans and Democrat-led senators. It is anyone's guess when the 357 budget differences between the two houses will be resolved. This is "politics as usual" in Wisconsin.
What "Joe Citizen" doesn't realize is that key issues are often hidden in the budget bill that have no fiscal impact and, therefore, no place in this process. One of these provisions deals with greatly weakening local control of police and fire departments by mandating outside arbitration in cases of redirective discipline of department employees. Historically, for over 100 years, this has been a locally controlled entity of the Police and Fire Commission in Wisconsin.
In Tomahawk, PFC members are locally appointed citizens who hire, discipline and potentially remove members for just cause. If Sections 2666F and 2679I of the Senate version of the budget are adopted, cases of police misconduct in Wisconsin could go to an outside arbitrator appointed by the state rather than a body of the victim’s peers, the local Police and Fire Commission. It would allow arbitration for a Police and Fire Commission decision and remove the ability of a police chief or a citizen to complain about an errant officer, unless a union gave its okay. In other words, rogue police officers will be allowed to still wear a badge, completely undermining a police chief's authority to manage their own force.
This issue was addressed in two prior bills sent to committee, but it did not withstand public scrutiny and never made it out of committee. This issue is now being "hidden" in the budget bill rather than standing alone on its merits. If this is such a great idea, why is it not being addressed on its own and in a public forum?
This issue is a Milwaukee and Madison policy based on several recent high profile cases of police misconduct. This language would be forcing big city policies and standards onto the rest of Wisconsin, rather than allowing local citizens to determine what is in our best interests.
I have been a volunteer member of the Tomahawk Police and Fire Commission for the past nine years. We have a very efficient and effective system for local control of redirective actions. Union control of police and fire discipline is an expensive recipe for disaster. We need stronger local controls for action through Police and Fire Commissions, not mandated outside arbitration. Please contact your state representative or senator ASAP if you agree with me on this issue. If not, sit back and do nothing – except open your wallet. "If it isn't broken, don't fix it."
Terry Timm, Chairperson
Tomahawk Police and Fire Commission