After mounting pressure to act, state lawmakers will vote on police reform bills Tuesday
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- For the first time since the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests, Wisconsin lawmakers will vote on some police reform bills.
The State Senate is scheduled to vote on four bills Tuesday centered around changing law enforcement policies. While most of the proposals would implement minor tweaks, it marks the first sign of progress towards “real change,” said Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).
“It’s not perfect, but I promise you it’s better than where we are,” Taylor said. “These bills will try to address the kinds of things that would bring us real change later.”
The proposals up for a vote include requiring law enforcement to post their use of force policies online, provide grants to cities to fund more community-oriented police houses and mandate law enforcement agencies to share employee profiles with other departments during a hiring process.
Another bill would require Wisconsin’s Department of Justice to collect additional data on use of force incidents, including officer-involved shootings, and publish an annual report.
Republican Senator Van Wanggaard, a former Racine police officer and lead sponsor of the proposal, said it aims to potentially change police procedures after reviewing the data.
“The Law Enforcement Standards Board will be able to look at this and they can modify training, then we can determine there’s a root cause that’s been identified we can correct,” said Wanggaard .
One bill that Milwaukee officials oppose would overhaul the city's Police and Firefighter Oversight Commission. The bill would expand the commission from seven to nine members, two of which would be union members.
When similar legislation was introduced years ago, Mayor Tom Barrett called it “an attack on the city,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as some officials believe it would remove local control.
Lawmakers have faced pressure to act on police reform measures since a former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on an unarmed black man, George Floyd’s, neck for more than nine minutes.
Shortly after the incident, Gov. Tony Evers called a special session for lawmakers to pass legislation to ban police chokeholds and no-knock warrants, but GOP leaders refused to meet.
Instead, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) introduced the creation of a bipartisan task force on policing that aimed to address racial disparities in law enforcement agencies.
The task force recently introduced 18 recommendations, some that would require the use of body cameras, whistleblower protections for officers who witness another officer using excessive use of force and crisis management training.
Wanggaard said he’s been working with the task force to tweak some of their recommendations as they’ve introduced similar ideas, and he hopes to vote on four additional bills focused on policing in June.