Evers Administration unveils nine bills targeting policing practices
The Evers Administration is rolling out a series of bills it expects will increase the accountability and transparency of law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin.
The package, which contains nine proposals that range from establishing statewide use of force standards to barring chokeholds and no-knock warrants, was unveiled Friday to coincide with Juneteenth.
“Our country promises the opportunity of justice and equity, and it’s time for us to deliver on that promise,” Gov. Evers said.
In a joint statement released by Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the pair said they do not believe the proposal should require a special session because of the widespread call for action on the issue.
“[C]alling another special session where legislative leaders come in and gavel in and gavel out risks us losing this incredible moment in history where we can and should be able to work together to get something accomplished,” Evers and said jointly.
In a letter to the Legislative Black Caucus, Evers and Barnes expressed their commitment to working with Republicans on the legislation. However, he assured them if there were a breakdown in talks, he is “ready and willing” to call one. The current legislative session.
“We continue to lose far too many Black lives, be it from inequities in criminal justice and policing, in health care, or in economic well-being,” said Lt. Gov. Barnes. “The social and economic consequences of these deep-seated inequities reach every community in our state and eliminating them will require action at every level of government.”
Evers and Barnes noted that Wisconsin often ranks at the bottom of rankings of states as far as racial disparities, including infant mortality and educational attainment. Additionally, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they made special mention of the fact that black Wisconsinites made up a quarter of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths, despite being only 6.7 percent of the population.
“We know we don’t have all of the answers—no one does. This legislation is a first step toward dismantling the systems we’ve created, but it can only be a first step, Evers added. Racism and racial disparities can’t be solved with any single bill or package of bills, or person—it’s on all of us, together.”
The package of legislation announced by the governor and lieutenant governor, as described by the administration, 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.
- Requires each law enforcement officer to annually complete at least eight hours of training on use of force options and de-escalation techniques.
- 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.
- Requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies prohibiting the use of chokeholds.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prohibits no-knock search warrants.
- 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.