Evers calls on Legislature to pass bill on police use of force

NOW: Evers calls on Legislature to pass bill on police use of force

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Governor Tony Evers released a video message discussing the death of George Floyd, the ongoing protests throughout the state and his call on state legislators to act on use of force policies of local law enforcement.

The video message was the first time outside of tweets or written messages that the governor addressed the protests in Wisconsin that have been ongoing since May 29 following the death of Floyd.

“His name was George Floyd,” Evers said. “He was 46. His life matters. His family deserves justice. And he should still be alive today.”

Evers said Floyd’s death and the emotions sparked by it echo that of Black Wisconsinites killed by police including Dontre Hamilton, Sylville Smith, Ernest Lacy and Tony Robinson. Evers also made a call to action.

“We can start with accountability for unacceptable use of force by certain law enforcement officers in our country and our state,” Evers said.

In the video message, the governor called on the state Legislature to pass Assembly Bill 1012 which aims to reform use of force policies in law enforcement departments in Wisconsin. The bill did not make it out of committee this past session and had no Republican co-sponsors, something it would need in order to have a chance at becoming law.

Requests for comment by the offices of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) were not immediately returned.

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R – Racine) released a statement saying the actions taken by the officer who killed George Floyd were “terrifying” and that the officer, “violated both the law and his oath of office in taking Mr. Floyd’s life.”

But Wanggaard also criticized the governor’s call for the Legislature to take up AB 1012, saying it had little to no input from police when crafting the legislation.

“Assembly Bill 1012 and Senate Bill 892 were clearly written by liberal activists who have never served with law enforcement, and apparently never even talked or listened to them,” Wanggaard said. “Micromanaging the force continuum in a state statute written by the most liberal Democrats in the Capitol won’t make things better and will likely make it worse.”

Wanggaard went on to say he hopes to work with Evers and democrats on crafting legislation that takes input from law enforcement, activists and legal experts.

Attorney General Josh Kaul agrees multiple stakeholders need to engage to achieve reform and progress.

“I think having a lot of people be part of the dialogue is really important,” Kaul said in an interview with CBS 58.

The state’s attorney general said that Wisconsin’s policy of having a third party – the Division of Criminal Investigation – is helpful in assuring accountability for shootings involving police, but adds that more can be done.

“I think we need to have more investment in community policing in Wisconsin so that there are strong police-community relationships,” Kaul said. “Those are always valuable, but they are particularly valuable in tense times like the current situation.”

Kaul said a number of other policies and actions can help, including further investment in treatment and diversion programs, legislation that prevents police departments from sealing records of employee misconduct if that employee tries to get another job at a different law enforcement agency and fund a hate crime hotline in Wisconsin.

On the topic of violence, vandalism and looting that has occurred separately from peaceful protests, Kaul said law enforcement actions have been appropriate and that the Department of Justice is working in collaboration with those agencies to address the issue.

Kaul also discussed President Donald Trump who, on Monday, said he would activate and mobilize the military in cities and states that did not act to “dominate the streets” where protests were occurring.

“[President Trump’s] comment was absolutely outrageous and it was inappropriate,” Kaul said. “We don’t need military officers in our streets. No state in the country has asked the president to send military forces into their state.”

Kaul added that the president’s action was, “illegal, unconstitutional and unacceptable.”

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