MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) -- There are police accountability bills ready on the state level, but Wisconsin’s divided government could be halting progress.
The movement for changes in policing has been reinvigorated since the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Sunday. As Wisconsinites demand change, a spat between two branches of government could prevent change from coming.
Sunday night, Governor Tony Evers released a statement condemning shooting, while mentioning that we won’t have all the details until the independent investigation is finished.
Just after noon Monday, Speaker Robin Vos said he was disturbed by the video of the shooting, and the ensuing vandalism and violence. He announced he was starting a task force focused on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies.
Less than an hour later, Evers signed an executive order calling the legislature to a special session on a package of bills his office proposed in June after the death of George Floyd.
“We also stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites,” Evers said in a virtual address Monday. “I’ve said all along we must offer our empathy, we must see the trauma, fear, and exhaustion of being Black in our state and in our country. But equally important to our empathy is our action.”
That’s where things broke down.
Within 45 minutes, Vos accused Evers of “turning to politics” by calling the special session instead of working through the Speaker’s task force.
The nine bills Evers’ administration proposed would:
- Establish statewide use of force standards, where deadly force is considered the last resort.
- Require every police officer to complete at least eight hours of use of force and de-escalation techniques every year.
- Create a $1 million grant program for violence prevention.
- Ban the use of chokeholds by police officers.
- Require every department have its own use of force policy, and it be publicly available.
- Require the state Department of Justice to collect and release yearly data on use of force by police officers in Wisconsin.
- Allow people to use police officers for civil rights violations.
- Ban no-knock warrants.
- Make it more difficult for officers with histories of disciplinary action to bounce from department to department.
“These are common sense policies that transcend political debate,” Evers said. “And many of them have been embraced by community, state, and federal leaders on both sides of the aisle, including our neighbors in both Iowa and Minnesota, who have passed similar comprehensive, meaningful reform. Yet two months later, and Wisconsin’s legislative leaders have failed to act.”
Other special sessions Evers has called have essentially been ignored.
In November, Republicans started and finished the session on gun violence bills in less than a minute. They gaveled in, gaveled out, and left.
The special session on policing accountability and transparency is scheduled for August 31 at noon.
Spectrum News Wisconsin reached out to Speaker Vos’ office Monday evening, and Tuesday afternoon staff said he was unavailable.