Gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett Thursday blasted Gov. Scott Walker for vilifying the Milwaukee Police Department for what Barrett says was a miscalculation of crime statistics — an issue that has become political fodder on the campaign trail in recent days.
"Shame on Governor Walker if he impugns the integrity of the beat cops of the Milwaukee Police Department because these are men and women that put their lives on the line every single day," the Milwaukee mayor said during a press conference.
Milwaukee's crime data became an issue in gubernatorial recall race after the Journal Sentinel published a story earlier this week that indicated the Milwaukee Police Department may have misreported more than 500 assault cases since 2009 to the FBI.
"The misreported cases found in 2011 alone are enough that (Chief Edward) Flynn would have been announcing a 1.1 percent increase in violent crime in February, instead of a 2.3 percent decline from the reported 2010 numbers, which also include errors," the paper reported.
The discrepancies could have been caused by coding errors on the part of police officers, according to Barrett, who vowed to be transparent in solving the issue. The department requested an audit on its crime reporting numbers from federal officials last year. The results of that audit are due out within the month.
"I applaud my Police Department for asking for this audit," Barrett said. "This was not something they had to do."
State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) has called on the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct its own audit. Walker echoed that call on Thursday.
The issue, which shines a disparaging light on the city, could not come at a worse time for the mayor, who is in a uphill battle against Walker. According to polls, Walker has a 5-point lead over Barrett with less than two weeks the June 5 election.
Walker held his own press conference Thursday morning when he appeared with the Milwaukee Police Association to discuss public safety.
The Journal Sentinel reported that the Republican governor noted Barrett has routinely touted Milwaukee's decrease in crime.
"If the mayor believes in the past or at least believed a drop in the violent crime rate is an example of his leadership, it is a legitimate question, now that we know that violent crime went up, we should also be able to question whether that is an example of failed leadership in the City of Milwaukee," Walker said.
“The recent findings by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlight a disturbing trend within the Barrett campaign machine,” said Ciara Matthews, a spokeswoman for the Walker Campaign.
“The failed mayor’s disregard for facts in favor of political capital is troublesome for the people of Milwaukee and should be a reminder for the rest of Wisconsin on Election Day, Mayor Barrett cannot be trusted,” she added.
Barrett attempted to turned the tables on Walker in terms of inquiring about criminal activity, saying that governor has questions to answer about his involvement in corruption in the Milwaukee County Executive's office during his time as county executive.
"Weave and bob and duck and run," said Barrett in describing Walker's response to requests for .
Five former staffers have been charged with crimes in an ongoing . Walker, who has set up a legal defense fund, has not been implicated in the probe.
"He is trying to run the clock out so he does not have to answer these questions," Barrett added.