Gov. Evers directs state law enforcement to review, update use of force policies
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Gov. Tony Evers is directing all state-managed law enforcement to review and update their use of force policies Wednesday.
The governor signed Executive Order #111 Wednesday, which would include directing the Department of Natural Resources Division of Public Safety and Resource Protection, the Wisconsin State Capitol Police, and the Wisconsin State Patrol to review their policies, as well.
According to the order, the agencies must use de-escalation tactics, use the least amount of force necessary and report when they used force.
“We’re getting to work here on the state level to make sure we’re leading by example and setting the bar in Wisconsin,” said Gov. Evers. “Wisconsinites across our state are demanding action and meaningful, systemic change—this is a critically important step, but it can’t be the last.”
Jirs Meuris, an assistant professor at UW-Madison studying use of force, said the order was a positive first step. He added, “It’s still not really getting to the core of what seems to be driving some of these problems.”
“The biggest problem is training,” he said. “The way that we structure training in U.S. police departments is insane, almost. A lot of things come down to officers doing things in the heat of the moment. They’re not trained enough to respond accordingly when adrenaline is pumping.”
Evers also ordered officers to prevent or stop excessive force by another officer.
But Meuris said creating a standard for excessive force is difficult. “Once you set a bar, you could probably think of a situation in which you might say, ‘Well—in this particular situation that same behavior is no longer excessive.’ It’s proportional at that point.”
The executive order notes that the U.S. leads the developed world in officer-involved deaths, with more than 1,000 Americans fatally shot by police in 2020.
The governor’s order followed the release of the Wisconsin Assembly’s racial justice task force report.
The bipartisan task force was not able to reach consensus on how to define what constitutes excessive police use of force for the purposes of a statewide definition. It also stopped short of calling for a total ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants.
It also comes just one day after a Minnesota jury found former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges in the killing of George Floyd.
Gov. Evers also pointed back to his Badger Bounceback agenda, which includes measures for police accountability and transparency. The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is set to review the governor’s biennial budget over the course of the coming weeks.
Gov. Evers had previously signed Executive Order #84 in August of 2020, which called the Legislature into a special session on policing issues. The session resulted in no action taken.
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