MILWAUKEE – We may be on the brink of history.
Dr. Denita Ball will be the first female to assume the office of Milwaukee County Sheriff if elected. She is the presumptive winner after snagging the Democratic nomination because there is no Republican counterpart.
Ball chatted with WTMJ’s Jason Smith about her primary win and her plans for if she wins the general election and becomes sheriff.
“No, it hasn’t completely sunk in yet,” Ball said. “It really won’t sink in until I’m actually the sheriff instead of sheriff-elect. But right now I’m enjoying the feeling. I’m glad that I won the election but there’s work to do. So I’ve sort of tempered that exuberance with ‘Hey, you still have to get the job done.”
Ball said she’s the right person for the job due to her lengthy experience in law enforcement where she: ran the day-to-day operations for the last 3-and-a-half-years under Sheriff Earnell Lucas, elevated from police officer to deputy inspector where she commanded areas like District 4, Sensitive Crime Division and Internal Affairs as well as implementing a neighborhood task force that led to crime reduction.
“[The neighborhood task force] was a group of 200 officers who went into chronic high-crime areas,” Ball said. “We looked at the data for 10 years and saw where the crime was concentrated and we had double digit decrease in crime.”
She made clear her top priority upon assuming office would be mitigating the staffing shortage.
“Well of course my number one key focus is our staffing, especially in our jail,” Ball said. “I think it’s the root of a lot of the problems we have in our agency. We get a hold of our staffing in the jail, we can transfer those 20 deputies who are currently in the jail to the courts or to patrol as well as to the airports.”
They’ve “increased recruitment activity” by using “any avenue they can” including career events, word-to-mouth, information posted on buses, bus shelters, malls, indeed, television and radio. The hourly wage also jumped from $21 to $24.
Ball said they’re “on the right track” when it comes to the “Kia Boys” and reckless driving as they’ve been “working with the manufactures” to solve the problem.
“We know that the new cars that are coming out aren’t as easy to steal,” Ball said. “Some of the manufactures are also providing devices to put on the car which will make it more difficult to steal.”
She’s been working with the Sherman Park reckless driving initiative for over a year where the plan is to engineer the streets with tools like roundabouts and speedbumps to make reckless driving harder.
But the biggest issue in Milwaukee right now is gun violence. Ball said we need to learn how to “channel our anger and not use it in a violent way.”
“We’ve seen crime go down in some categories but it continues to rise in homicide,” Ball said. “A lot of that is the result of not knowing how to handle a disagreement. So an argument becomes a fight, the fight becomes and shooting and the shooting becomes a homicide.”
According to Ball, stricter gun laws in terms of mental health problems, raising the age for purchasing AR-15’s and background checks are a good start.
“Putting more cops on the streets is not going to solve all of our problems,” Ball said. “It’s more than visibility, we have to talk to our kids and be able to relate to them. I’m not sure putting more cops on the street is the answer to that. We need to get to the root of the problem; why they feel they need to be carrying guns.”
You can listen to the full interview at the top of the page.