Madison's Downtown Safety Initiative (DSI) began in 2006 after a string of downtown muggings. The $100,000 annual fund was created to provide for overtime to get more police on the streets late at night.
Ald. Mike Verveer was upset to learn earlier this year that police getting paid from this fund were sometimes doing ID checks in bars.
"The idea behind DSI was to provide high-visibility patrols to prevent muggings and other violence," he says. "I don't see why DSI officers should be in bars carding patrons."
Now the city, seeking ways to save money, is hoping to get private businesses to help foot this bill. But, Verveer says, "I don't think we have a prayer of securing private funding if officers are being ordered to provide tavern enforcement or inspections."
He's proposed a budget amendment requiring police to come up with a plan for using the fund, to be approved by the Public Safety Review Committee.
"We need a written report with goals and benchmarks to leverage private funding," Verveer says. "Before one penny of the 2010 budget is spent on DSI, I want policymakers to review the document." He wants the plan ready by March.
Capt. Mary Schauf, the MPD's Central District commander, doesn't have a problem with the idea. She says bar checks have never been a priority for DSI officers, but adds sometimes "officers are out checking something and it leads them back to a bar: I would expect them to check that out."