Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and former Ald. Bob Donovan differed during a televised debate on how to help the Milwaukee Police Department address rising violent crime in the state’s largest city.

The two mayoral candidates at a WTMJ-TV debate organized in part by WisPolitics.com said they want to hire more officers. Johnson, who also serves as Common Council president, said he wants to recruit veteran officers to address rising homicide rates. Donovan said he wants to attract officers from other areas to increase community policing efforts.

The election is April 5.

As Milwaukee is experiencing back-to-back record-setting years for homicides, Johnson says in addition to working with the state to secure more funding for police, he wants to bring back retired veteran Milwaukee officers in order to help increase the department’s homicide solving rate.

“And we have to continue to work at that; make sure we bring people into the fold because we’re seeing so many officers hit 25 years, and then they’re simply leaving the department,” Johnson said.

He added he wants to use some of the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act federal funds to do that.

Donovan said he wants more foot patrols, bicycle police and school resources officers because he believes community policing will build a meaningful relationship between police and community members of all ages.

“I want police officers back in schools, connecting in a positive way with our young people so that they have a good impression of police officers,” he said. “But sadly, that’s not happening enough.”

The former southwest side alderman added he wants to recruit officers from around the country to increase the department’s size.

Neither specified how many officers they want to bring on.

When it came to choosing a Milwaukee site to replace the youth prison in northern Wisconsin, the two opposed getting rid of the Felmers O. Chaney adult work release facility on the city’s north side.

As the state moves forward with a bill that would spend $42 million on a replacement for the state’s troubled youth prison, local government leaders will need to approve any future site.

Donovan emphatically said he would not support placing that new facility at the Chaney site.

“That would be a huge mistake because that facility does good work. We need this in addition to that,” he said, referring to both a new youth prison and the adult work release facility.

But Johnson focused more on the need to build a facility closer to many of the state’s worst juvenile offenders’ homes.

“I don’t necessarily want to see it there either,” he said. “I agree that there’s a lot of good work that’s going on there. Those are the folks who are low-level offenders who have freedoms. And I want them to have that access, but it is a priority of mine to make sure that young people in Milwaukee have the opportunity to get the rehab and those services right here in the city of Milwaukee.”

See a replay of the debate here.

See more on the debate in the Monday WisPolitics.com AM Update.

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