Panic alarms. Brightly colored safety vests. Car decals. An incident tracker.
Those are some of the tools Milwaukee’s city workers now have to help protect themselves following the death of a longtime housing inspector earlier this year.
The death of Greg “Ziggy” Zyszkiewicz, a beloved city home inspector who was shot and killed while on duty in March, sent shockwaves through City Hall and prompted calls for improving the safety of Milwaukee’s public employees.
City officials on Wednesday briefed a Common Council committee on the status of changes that have been made following Zyszkiewicz’s death. Those changes were based on employee feedback and recommendations aimed at improving the safety of workers in the field.
The changes include:
- Workers who wanted to identify their vehicles have been given decals for when they are conducting official city business.
- Safety vests and other clothing items have been provided to city employees upon request.
- Personal panic alarms were purchased by the city’s Department of Employee Relations and have been made available to all field employees.
- The Milwaukee Police Department has done safety awareness training for all field personnel.
- A map of safe places, such as libraries and police and fire stations, was provided to city workers.
- City workers who don’t have cellphones may get city-issued mobile phones.
- An incident tracker was created in July for departments to document and share data regarding emergencies in the field. Those incidents could involve weapons, violence, aggression, drugs, criminal activity, damage to property, or unsafe conditions.
Maria Monteagudo, the city’s Employee Relations director, said 45 incidents have been documented so far — including 17 involving Department of Neighborhood Services employees. She acknowledged that the number seemed high given the relatively small size of that department.
“I was a little surprised,” Monteagudo said.
Zyszkiewicz, a DNS employee, was conducting a routine code violation inspection when he was killed during an attempted carjacking near N. 23rd and W. Cherry streets.
During Wednesday’s Finance and Personnel Committee meeting, several aldermen also raised concerns about Milwaukee parking enforcement workers who came under gunfire last month. The workers, known as parking ambassadors, were involved in two unrelated shots fired incidents that did not result in any injuries.
Aldermen have repeatedly questioned why they heard about the incidents days after they happened.
“Apparently being shot at isn’t that big of a thing anymore,” Ald. Bob Donovan said at the time.
On Wednesday, Donovan and Ald. Milele Coggs, chairwoman of the committee, pushed for aldermen to be promptly notified of incidents involving city workers — especially those that occur in the districts they represent.
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