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Abele declines to veto Sheriff’s Office absconder unit

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele will let stand the County Board’s decision to keep with the Sheriff’s Office a five-man unit tasked with catching those who abscond from the House of Correction.

Abele, in a memo released Wednesday, expressed dismay that the unit – which primarily is tasked with keeping tabs on those who are on the HOC’s electronic monitoring program – wasn’t going to be in the hands of District Attorney John Chisholm, as proposed in the county executive’s budget proposal in September.

But, Abele said, said he chose not to veto the County Board’s decision because the board is withholding three-quarters of the more than $450,000 set aside to pay for the five-member unit until Sheriff David Clarke can prove he will follow through on his promise to cooperate and respond to calls to catch inmates.

“When it looked like they may lose this staff, the Sheriff’s Office made a vague pledge to actually fulfill the function and pick up absconders,” Abele’s memo stated, referring to a statement made by sheriff’s Chief Deputy Richard Schmidt during a budget hearing. “It remains clear to me that the District Attorney’s Office remains the best place for this unit.”


Abele’s office, as well as Chisholm and HOC Superintendent Michael Hafemann, have said the proposal to move the money for the absconder unit came after Clarke’s deputies did not respond to requests to catch those who absconded.

The memo also noted that Clarke has characterized those on electronic monitoring as “low risk,” a mentality can lead to “undermining the program if inmates are able to abscond or otherwise break the rules without fear of consequence.”

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