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Brown Deer officials discuss adding police officer, code enforcement staffer

Police chief says now is the time to add officer

Oct. 21, 2013

Brown Deer — As officials in Brown Deer begin piecing together the village's 2014 budget, a number of scenarios could come into play, including filling a vacant police officer position and adding a code enforcement professional to the staff.

The Village Board is in the midst of holding a series of budget workshops with all of Brown Deer's municipal department heads. During a session Oct. 16, the board discussed the police and administrative departments.

Officials also discussed a number of entities — North Shore Fire Department, North Shore Health Department and the recently combined dispatch center — Brown Deer shares with neighboring municipalities through shared service arrangements.

Police Chief Steven Rinzel came before the board with a request to increase the department's force from 31 to 32 sworn members. The Brown Deer Police Department has, in the past, had 32 sworn officers, but a position has been left vacant in recent years amid budget cuts.

"We really do believe we'll need an additional officer," Rinzel said. "Our calls for services have been increasing, and with Walmart coming in, it seems like the right time."

Domestic violence training

From a policy standpoint, Rinzel said an increased emphasis also is being placed on training officers in domestic violence situations — a further reason he said a staffing increase would be prudent. He elaborated on the issue when asked by Trustee Andrea Weddle-Henning.

Brown Deer police came under scrutiny a year ago after resident Radcliffe Haughton killed his wife, Zina, at the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield. Police had responded to several domestic incidents at the Haughtons' Brown Deer home prior to the Azana incident.

"Obviously, we've put more of an emphasis on it," Rinzel said in reference to training in domestic violence cases. He pointed out the department has established a close working relationship with women's counseling and shelter organization Sojourner Truth House.

Rinzel said Brown Deer was among the top suburban communities in Milwaukee County with domestic violence incidents, close to the numbers in Wauwatosa and only trailing West Allis. Weddle-Henning lauded the department's recent efforts with domestic violence awareness.

"Anything is better than nothing, as long as you are working to make Brown Deer more comfortable," Weddle-Henning said. "I would like to see you continue the effort."

Keeping blight down

Village Manager Michael Hall presented the board with a proposal to add some type of code enforcement officer position to assist in ensuring property maintenance is upheld throughout the community. Funds could be offset by the elimination of several intern positions.

In the down time of winter, the code enforcement professional could tackle other tasks, including grant writing, under the proposal laid out last week.

Commercial and residential valuation has been in decline in Brown Deer. Village President Carl Krueger pointed out Brown Deer's valuation had been hovering around $1 billion, but more recently has dipped to about $894 million.

As with many communities, Brown Deer is grappling with foreclosed properties, and a code enforcement officer could assist in ensuring blight and other issues do not become issues on abandoned properties.

Trustee Jeff Baker said he believed a code enforcement officer might be a good use of village resources.

"I'd like to see our police department keep the criminal element out and focus on policing," Baker said. "They shouldn't be dealing with code compliance issues. I think it might be time to put some teeth into what we have on paper."

The North Shore Health Department is proposing a flat budget next year, and plans do call for Brown Deer to chip in about $30,000 more toward funding the North Shore Fire Department's operations in 2014.

The proposed budget will continue to be reviewed in the weeks ahead before a public hearing and board adoption in November.

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