Gov. Evers, Lt. Gov. Barnes unveil policing accountability, transparency reforms in Wisconsin

Data pix.

MADISON -- Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced on Friday, June 19 a package of legislation to increase accountability and transparency in policing in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee police and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said the proposals will increase accountability and transparency. It is not clear if Republican lawmakers feel the same.

Gov. Tony Evers

The announcement came on Juneteenth, celebrated annually to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States and in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as calls of Wisconsinites and people across the country for justice and equity for Black Americans.

Evers described the package of bills as a first step to dismantling a system of racism and racial disparities.

"Every legislator has seen and heard from the people. It's time to make this happen," Gov. Evers said.

Milwaukee Police Department

Milwaukee Police Department

The legislation on police reform will establish statewide use-of-force standards and require departments to post the policy online. The package also includes legislation to prohibit chokeholds and no-knock warrants, require de-escalation training and set a standard for the de-certification of law enforcement agents.

"We think that the measure that's good for the profession and good for the public and certainly for the union that has to represent. No one wants a bad cop out of the profession more than a good one," said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

Law enforcement support is helpful. But Gov. Evers will need Republicans who control the state legislature to get on board, too.

"We need Republicans' help. There is no doubt about that," said Gov. Evers.

Republican State Sen. Van Wanggaard, who worked in law enforcement before running for office, said he has co-sponsored some of the bills in the past -- but is adamantly opposed to others "because they perpetuate false impressions of law enforcement and jeopardize the safety of officers and the public."

FOX6 reached out to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, but did not hear back.

A Milwaukee police spokeswoman said the department looks forward to working with lawmakers to discuss how the policies and laws may be enacted.

The package of legislation announced by the governor and lieutenant governor includes:

  • LRB 6273:
    • Establishes statewide use of force standards for all law enforcement agencies that includes that the primary duty of law enforcement is to preserve the life of all individuals; that deadly force is to be used only as the last resort; that officers should use skills and tactics that minimize the likelihood that force will become necessary; that, if officers must use physical force, it should be the least amount of force necessary to safely address the threat; and that law enforcement officers must take reasonable action to stop or prevent any unreasonable use of force by their colleagues;
    • Prohibits discipline of a law enforcement officer for reporting a violation of a law enforcement agency's use of force policy; and
    • Requires the Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) to develop a model use of force policy for law enforcement agencies.
  • LRB 6274:
    • ​Requires each law enforcement officer to annually complete at least eight hours of training on use of force options and de-escalation techniques.
  • LRB 6275:
    • Creates a $1,000,000 grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, to fund community organizations that are utilizing evidence-based outreach and violence interruption strategies to mediate conflicts, prevent retaliation and other potentially violent situations, and connect individuals to community supports.
  • LRB 6276:
    • Requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies prohibiting the use of chokeholds.
  • LRB 6277:
    • Requires each law enforcement agency to not only prepare a policy regarding the use of force by its law enforcement officers, but to make it available publicly online.
  • LRB 6281:
    • Creates a civil cause of action for unnecessarily summoning a law enforcement officer with intent to infringe upon a right of the person under the Wisconsin Constitution or the U.S. Constitution; unlawfully discriminate against the person; cause the person to feel harassed, humiliated, or embarrassed; cause the person to be expelled from a place in which the person is lawfully located; damage the person's reputation or standing within the community; or damage the person's financial, economic, consumer, or business prospects or interests.
  • LRB 6283: 
    • Requires that the Department of Justice publish an annual report on use of force incidents, including incidents where there was a shooting, where a firearm was discharged in the direction of a person (even if there was no injury), and where other serious bodily harm resulted from the incident; and
    • Requires certain demographic information to be collected about each incident and reported annually by DOJ on its website.
  • LRB 6289:
    • Prohibits no-knock search warrants.
  • LRB 6292:
    • Makes certain changes to the responsibilities of the LESB, including requiring LESB to also regulate jail and juvenile detention officer training standards and regulate recruitment standards for the recruiting of new law enforcement, jail, and juvenile detention officers;
    • Requires each law enforcement agency to maintain an employment file for each employee; and
    • Requires each potential candidate for a position in an agency, jail, or facility that is or has been employed by a different agency, jail, or facility to authorize their previous employer to disclose his or her employment files to the hiring entity.
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