Wisconsin law enforcement group urges lawmakers to pass police reform bills

NOW: Wisconsin law enforcement group urges lawmakers to pass police reform bills

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The state's largest police group called on state lawmakers to move ahead with a number of law enforcement reform bills before the current legislative session ends.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association published a release Wednesday, Sept. 22 saying it was proud of the progress already made in having some bills that were part of its 'Blueprint for Change,' but that some bills remained idle in the state Senate.

"We want to make sure we get a number of those bills that are remaining, that have already been passed by the Assembly. We want to get them through the Senate, across the finish line and to Governor [Tony] Evers' desk as soon as possible," said Jim Palmer, the executive director for the WPPA.

The bills that have not been passed include ones dealing with funding for police body cameras, officer employment record-keeping and data collection for no-knock warrants.

Palmer told CBS 58 the bills were part of a long process that involved voices from across the political spectrum. That includes a Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities that held community hearings and presented recommendations to the Legislature. To not move the bills forward would risk losing crucial momentum on a polarizing issue, Palmer says.

"We think in order to keep moving the ball forward here in Wisconsin, in a constructive way, we need to act on measures recommended by task force, because we believe they benefit the public and law enforcement alike," Palmer said.

The bills have bipartisan support, including for Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, a Democrat.

"Some of [the bills] are crucial components in order to make sure that we have the best individuals on the force and to have the support to collect data to address issues we may have," Taylor told CBS 58.

Taylor agrees there is an urgency to pass the bills in the Senate before the legislative session ends, because beginning the process all over again next session would be a daunting task.

"When that doesn't happen, that momentum and all of that doesn't just come back next session," Taylor said. "And so that's the negative for whatever we don't get done this time."

Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine, who is the chair of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, sent CBS 58 the following statement pointing to hope that the bills will eventually reach Gov. Evers' desk in the coming months.

"The Senate has already passed 8 bills to improve police practices around accountability, community involvement and transparency, most of which are included in the WPPA package and the Assembly Task Force bills.
I expect to hold a hearing on the remaining police improvement bills in my committee in the next month, and hope they will be voted on by the full Senate by the end of the year."
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