Error that led to 8,000 citations falling through cracks is fixed, Milwaukee officials say

After the city of Milwaukee uncovered an error in which thousands of police citations were not being sent to municipal court for prosecution, city officials said Wednesday they believe the problem has been fixed.

An audit completed last year found more than 8,000 traffic and municipal citations fell through the cracks between January 2020 and April 2021. Of those tickets, 8% could not be reissued because the statute of limitations passed.

Those tickets range from vehicle equipment issues to reckless driving.

A follow-up audit, the results of which were shared with the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee on Wednesday, showed that between May 2021 and the end of 2022, the number of missed citations fell to 445.

During that second time period, auditors told committee members, police and municipal court employees created a temporary, manual system to double check that citations were successfully being passed along.

Since then, beginning earlier this year, a more robust system that includes manual and computer automated checks and balances has been implemented.

“We are catching any and all failures at this point,” said Jeffrey Larson, the director of information technology for the Milwaukee Police Department.

That hasn’t been confirmed by another audit, however. At the questioning of Ald. Scott Spiker, the city’s comptroller, Aycha Sawa, said her office would “probably” examine a small data set by the end of the year, “but that’s to be determined.”

Error resulted in lost revenue for city

The 8% of tickets from 2020 to 2021 that couldn’t be reissued because the statute of limitations represented just under $100,000 in fines owed to the city.

The remaining tickets represented an estimated $1 million in fines owed, but 99% of those citations were reissued, police said.

Officers who issued the ticket were no longer employed the department, preventing some from being reissued, the department’s statement said. Other citations couldn’t be reissued before the statute of limitations.

Unclear how problem developed

It remains unclear how the problem developed in the first place. During a discussion at a committee meeting last year, officials said the system that transmits tickets written by police to municipal court was uniquely created for the Police Department in late 2019. The employee who designed it left the job sometime after.

With arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after and employees working from home, officials said it was unclear if the error was systemic or human-related.

On Wednesday, Spiker said he understood the problem to be systemic, but he did not elaborate on the subject.

Contact Elliot Hughes at or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Citation error with Milwaukee Municipal Court believed to be fixed

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