Following Jacob Blake shooting Evers calls Special Session, Vos to form task force

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Updated: 5:54 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2020 

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Following the shooting of Jacob Blake, Governor Tony Evers called on lawmakers to take up a package of bills on policing in a Special Session while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced a plan to establish a task force to address the issue.

“We cannot wait for Republican leadership to show up for work because clearly they intend to keep us waiting,” Gov. Evers said in a video address. “That’s not going to cut it. Not for me, not for Lieutenant Governor [Mandela] Barnes and certainly, certainly not the people of the state who are leading at this time and in this moment.”

The package of nine bills was rolled out by Evers and Barnes in June following national protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Among them include legislation to ban the use of chokeholds by police officers, prohibit no-knock search warrants, require publicly available use of force policies for police departments and create standards for police department employee records.

In June, Evers said he did not want to create a political standoff over the bills by calling a Special Session. Previous Special Sessions called by Evers on things like gun control proved unsuccessful with Republican leadership who control the Legislature not taking the bills up for votes and simply gaveling in and gaveling out the session. This time, the governor hopes to create a sense of urgency.

“This is not the time for politics,” Evers said. “I am urging Republican leadership to rise to this important moment in history, to put people before politics and to put lives of Black Wisconsinites above politics and to give this Special Session the urgent and productive effort this moment demands.”

Republicans want to go a different route.

Speaker Vos (R – Rochester) sent out a pair of statements Monday with the first saying he was disturbed by the video of the shooting of Jacob Blake as well as the unrest in Kenosha that followed.

“When a community is hurting, the most important thing that we can do is to listen,” Vos said in a statement. That is why today, I am announcing a Speaker’s task force focusing on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards. We must find a path forward as a society that brings everyone together.”

A task force typically is formed by including a bipartisan group of lawmakers who then hold listening sessions across the state on a particular issue. After that, the input is used to form legislation that is then presented and then voted on like a normal bill process.

Following the governor’s call for a Special Session, Vos expressed dissatisfaction with how Evers wanted to proceed to address the issues around policing.

“When I spoke to Governor Evers on the phone today, I asked him to work with the Legislature in a deliberate and open process through the task force,” Vos said in a second statement. “We have an opportunity to bring people together to find solutions. Instead, the governor is choosing to turn to politics again by dictating liberal policies that will only deepen the divisions in our state.”

In a call with reporters, Evers said previous task forces may take months to produce bills and even then, there is not guarantee those bills become law. On top of that, he feels confident in the package of bills he put forward.

“It’s time for action,” Evers told reporters.

Lt. Gov. Barnes called Vos’s effort to establish a task force an, “abdication of responsibility.”

The Special Session called by Gov. Evers is scheduled for Aug. 31.

From the governor’s office

The package of legislation included in the governor’s special session call includes:

  • LRB 6273/LRB 6424:
    • 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/ LRB 6425:
    • 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/LRB 6426:
    • 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/LRB 6427:
    • Requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies prohibiting the use of chokeholds.
  • LRB 6277/LRB 6428:
    • 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/LRB 6429:
    • 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/LRB 6430:
    • 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/LRB 6431:
    • Prohibits no-knock search warrants.
  • LRB 6292/LRB 6432:
    • 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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Posted: 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 23

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Gov. Tony Evers released a statement in regard to an officer-involved shooting that critically injured a Black man in Kenosha Sunday, Aug. 23. 

"Tonight, Jacob Blake was shot in the back multiple times, in broad daylight, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kathy and I join his family, friends, and neighbors in hoping earnestly that he will not succumb to his injuries. While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.

We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country—lives like those of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, Tony Robinson, Dontre Hamilton, Ernest Lacy, and Sylville Smith. And we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.

I have said all along that although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action. In the coming days, we will demand just that of elected officials in our state who have failed to recognize the racism in our state and our country for far too long.”
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