WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker and his recall challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, traded jabs Thursday over a media report that questions whether Milwaukee police misrepresented crime statistics.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found at least 500 cases in which aggravated assaults had been misclassified as lesser assaults. The newspaper is still awaiting records that involve 800 similar cases to see whether those were misclassified as well.
If the 500 incidents been classified properly, the violent-crime rate last year would have risen 1.1 percent from the previous year’s figures, instead of falling 2.3 percent as the police department had reported.
Walker quickly turned the report into a campaign attack, saying it raised serious questions about the way Barrett has managed the city of Milwaukee.
“I think it’s time he focused on fixing Milwaukee, not on screwing up the rest of the state,” Walker told hundreds of cheering supporters in Waukesha.
Walker joined other officials in calling for an independent audit of the crime numbers.
Barrett said any crime statistics that were wrong would be corrected. He also said there was no allegation that the numbers had been deliberately manipulated.
The mayor credited the police department for requesting its own audit from the federal government last year and said he expected the results would be available within about a month.
“I am certainly going to look at that and see what steps are necessary after that,” Barrett said. “But I applaud my police department for asking for this audit. This was not something that they had to do.”
Walker also got a boost from a fellow Republican governor, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who appeared with Walker and Lt. Gov. Kleefisch at the Waukesha rally. Jindal played down his out-of-state influence by saying that even though Wisconsin’s election was being watched around the nation, it would ultimately come down to how Wisconsinites wanted to be governed.
“He has shown what strong, principled conservative leadership looks like,” Jindal told reporters afterward about Walker. “He has shown that produces real results for the people of Wisconsin.”
The campaigning and competing news conferences came one day before the candidates were scheduled to meet for the first of two debates ahead of the June 5 election.
The Journal Sentinel report also comes on the heels of a poll by St. Norbert College and Wisconsin Public Radio that found Walker holding a slight lead, 50 percent to 45 percent, with 5 percent undecided. The poll of 406 likely voters was conducted between May 17 and Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
An earlier poll released last week by the Marquette University Law School showed Walker slightly ahead of Barrett 50-44, with a 4.1 percentage point margin of error.
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