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Milwaukee Police Department, Wisconsin

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Milwaukee Police Department salaries are public records under the Wisconsin Open Records Law.

Salaries

Milwaukee Police Department salaries are posted online at WisconsinOpenGov.org, a database maintained by The MacIver Institute. In 2009, four employees earned over $150,000 in total compensation, including base salary, comp time, overtime pay and supplemental pay, out of 2,835 employees listed. The top 10 highest-paid department employees in 2009 were:[1]

Name Position Total compensation
Philip T. Sliwinski Detective $376,995
Kenneth R. Grams Lieutenant of Detectives $166,965
Richard Dollhopf Lieutenant of Police $157,257
Steven J. Braunreiter Police Sergeant $152,726
Edward A. Flynn Chief of Police $149,389
Keith A. Balash Lieutenant of Detectives $149,367
Scott D. Charles Police Sergeant $146,881
Thomas H. Welch Lieutenant of Detectives $142,953
Kirsten M. Webb Lieutenant of Detectives $142,929
Aaron M. Raap Lieutenant of Detectives $141,926

The average base pay salary for a police department employee was $48,177. The total payroll reported for the police department in the dataset was $169,993.81, with $13,134,381 spent on overtime in 2009.

Police department expenditures on salaries and wages decreased to $155,296,447 by budget year 2011.[2]

Benefits

According to budget documents, the department spent $59,012,650 on fringe benefits in FY 2011.[2] The department's benefits package is negotiated with the Milwaukee Police Association. It includes two weeks paid vacation after a year of service, 12 paid days off as holidays, and 15 paid sick days per year. Employees receive health, dental and life insurance. They are also enrolled in the City of Milwaukee Retirement System. Employees can receive up to $1,200 annually in text book reimbursement, $300 annually in uniform allowance, and up to $770 a year in educational pay.[3]

Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[4] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[5]

For comparison:[4]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[6]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[7]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[8] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[8] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[8] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[9][10] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[6][5] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

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