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Madison City Council approves sending 100 police officers to Milwaukee for Democratic convention

Madison City Council approves sending 100 police officers to Milwaukee for Democratic convention

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Democratic Convention Milwaukee

If the Democratic National Convention doesn't not get canceled or squared back amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Madison police will help provide law enforcement services at the convention, which will take place in July at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

If the Democratic National Convention still takes place in Milwaukee in July, the city of Madison will send up to 100 police officers to assist with the influx of people the convention is expected to bring.

The Madison City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution that allows the city to send Madison police officers to Milwaukee for 10 days surrounding the convention at Fiserv Forum, scheduled to be held July 13-16. The resolution authorizes the mayor, police chief and the city clerk to sign an agreement with Milwaukee to provide the law enforcement, with Milwaukee reimbursing costs at an estimated $1 million.

The resolution does not specify how many officers Madison would send, but Assistant Police Chief Paige Valenta told the Wisconsin State Journal in late February that the police department was considering sending 50 to 100 officers.

The Madison Police Department has an authorized strength of 482 sworn personnel, and officers would be drawn from all areas of the department.

Additional administrative costs of up to $10,000, mostly related to scheduling and payroll, would not be reimbursed by Milwaukee. Those costs would be absorbed by the city of Madison.

That’s all assuming that the convention doesn’t get canceled or curtailed because of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 and city government

At Tuesday’s meeting, City Council members sat six feet apart from each other and had a limited audience based on recommendations to prevent community spread of COVID-19.

Although 16 members of the council were present, along with a handful of city staff members, the meeting was not in violation of Gov. Tony Evers’ order to limit gatherings to less than 10 people because state and local government meetings are exempt from that order.

To allow for more stringent social distancing in future meetings, the council passed two ordinances that will change city meeting practices during the public health emergency.

One of the ordinances prohibits city meetings from being held during an officially declared emergency, unless the mayor and council president “determine the meeting is necessary to provide essential functions or support to the operations of the city,” according to the ordinance.

The other allows members to attend meetings held during such an emergency by electronic means.

In a memo, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and City Council President Shiva Bidar said they believe it is critical for the council to continue as scheduled because it is “the final and official actor” on city business.

“Let us be clear that the (City) Council will keep meeting as scheduled,” they said. “The only question is if we will meet in person or remotely.”

A select few committees, including the Finance Committee and Plan Commission, will also continue to meet in person or remotely.

Online availability

Any meetings held virtually will be available to the public to watch online via the Madison City Channel, or other online means, though the city channel is not always reliable.

On Tuesday, for instance, the council meeting was not available to watch online for almost the entire first hour of the two-hour meeting.

City Information Technology spokeswoman Sarah Edgerton said access to city meetings is an “essential service” to the public during this time, and her department is working to build up the technical infrastructure needed to move meetings online.

Said Bidar: “This is a huge lift. It’s not going to be easy, and I expect that we are going to find some technical difficulties in the way.”

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