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Report: Wisconsin police budgets were cut prior to protests

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Police departments across Wisconsin saw their budgets cut and number of sworn officers reduced before the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis and the national “defund police” debate, a report released Tuesday showed.

That suggests that cutting police and fire department budgets is less about a deliberate attempt to defund them and more about confronting difficult fiscal realities, the report from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum said.

The report comes after Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that would have cut state aid to communities that reduce police budgets.

The report found that while total spending on law enforcement by all Wisconsin municipalities grew 1.3% between 2018 and 2019, 253 municipalities decreased how much they spent. They ranged in size from Milwaukee and Green Bay to 144 communities with fewer than 2,000 residents.

Over that same period, 461 municipalities increased funding on police, led by Madison at $2.2 million, West Allis at $1.7 million and Racine at $1.5 million.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of sworn officers statewide increased by 90 but 59 municipalities cut officers. Total police employment, including civilians, grew by 2% while the number of sworn officers was up just 1.2%.

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