MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin municipalities’ biggest expense in the past three decades has been their police departments, according to a report released Monday.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum analyzed state Department of Revenue reports detailing local government spending from 1986 to 2018. It found that law enforcement spending was the largest municipal spending category in the state every year. The report comes amid cries to reduce police spending in response to George Floyd’s death last month. Floyd, who was Black, was pronounced dead after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for minutes.
The report found that spending on law enforcement rose from $353 million in 1986 to $1.28 billion in 2018, an increase of nearly 60% after accounting for inflation. Spending on police comprised 17.8% of total municipal operating and capital spending in 1986. By 2018 it comprised 20%.
The state’s crime rate dropped 54.7% during that period, the report added. But the report cautioned increased spending on police may not have caused the decline, noting that police perform other functions besides responding to crimes such as handling medical emergencies and providing security at events.
The report notes that Wisconsin school districts spend far more each year than municipalities do on police.