MPD spends on chairs while officers forced to sit at home

CREATED May 1, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Herman Miller chairs are so revered, one is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Now 150 of them are on display inside the offices of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Purchasing records show MPD authorized the purchase of the Herman Miller "Mirra" chairs in January at a total cost of $71,313.

A department spokesperson said the chairs will replace an aging hodgepodge of seating that has endured years of abuse, and at $450 apiece, he contends the department saved money over Mirra's $600 retail price.

But the timing of the purchase is raising eyebrows with the police union, whose rank-and-file members are being forced to take three unpaid furlough days in 2013.

Milwaukee Police Association president Mike Crivello wants his officers to have good equipment, but he doesn't want to see them unpaid and off the beat.

"I don't know what I would pay for a chair like that, but I am paying my tax dollars to make sure officers are on the street," Crivello said.

Milwaukee Police would not show us the new chairs, but a list obtained through an open records request shows where the chairs were delivered. The police administration building received 50 chairs, with 42 of them headed to the building's 7th floor. Those chairs are in and around the office of Chief Edward Flynn.

The remaining 100 chairs were spread around the department, with ten going to the telecommunications office, the neighborhood task force, the safety academy, and each of seven district offices.

Crivello doesn't question where the chairs are as much as the timing. He contends this is the second time in four years MPD chose to spend money questionably while his officers take a financial hit.

"In 2009, the first time our guys were furloughed, we painted cars," Crivello said. "It puts our officers at a safety disadvantage when their partner is at home, furloughed, and they're working by themselves."

The new chairs were selected after an extensive try-out process across the department. Documents show officers and civilian employees tested five different models of chair and answered a survey describing the one they preferred.

The old chairs were taken to a storage facility, according to a department spokesperson. That's where the chairs will be sorted and the "worst of the worst" as he called them, will be discarded.