Press Release: Gov. Evers to Sign Bipartisan Policing Changes, Urges More Action to Increase Transparency, Accountability, and Community Safety

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers to Sign Bipartisan Policing Changes, Urges More Action to Increase Transparency, Accountability, and Community Safety
 Governor calls to receive bipartisan bills following passage in the Legislature

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today signaled he plans to sign bipartisan policing changes passed by the Legislature earlier today and called for the bills to be sent to his desk without delay. These bills include Senate Bills 121, 122, 123, and 124.

These bills are a step, but we must take the next stepand the next stepif we're going to continue making meaningful progress toward a more just, more equitable, and safer state for everyone, said Gov. Evers. “The people of Wisconsin are demanding systemic change and reform in our state, and there is much more work left to do. So, while I plan to sign these bills, I am also calling on the Legislature to use this momentum and send additional comprehensive legislation to my desk. There's been plenty of time and ample opportunity. Let's get this done.

One year ago this week, Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced a package of legislation aimed at increasing policing accountability and transparency. Months later, in August 2020 and in the wake of Jacob Blake being shot in Kenosha, Wis., Gov. Evers called a special session to take up the package of legislation. The Wisconsin State Legislature quietly gaveled out of the special session late last year without taking any action.

In addition to calling to receive these bipartisan bills, the governor is also urging the Legislature to take action on several additional police accountability and transparency reforms that have been introduced or drafted but have not yet received any consideration in the Legislature despite ample opportunity, including pieces of legislation introduced in the governor's Special Session on Policing Accountability and Transparency, State Rep. David Bowen's (D-Milwaukee) "Enough is Enough" package, as well as bills drafted and not introduced by the Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities. A full list is provided below.

The short-sighted bill recommendations of the task force, some of which I voted for, did not meet the urgency of the moment that people have been marching and protesting for over a year. Members of my community, who witnessed the most cases of citizens killed and brutalized by police, want real change, and frankly, these bills aren't enough,” said State Rep. Bowen. “I was wary of the task force from the beginning, and it's clear my fears have come true; Republicans abdicated their duty to listen to the people of Wisconsin and instead, used a drawn-out process with ‘guardrails’ to produce bills that do too little almost a year later. And this is why we have moved forward with our ‘Enough is Enough’ package to make sure that this isn’t the end of the conversations and policy and to make sure that Republicans don’t spike the football and go on vacation, continuing to neglect real reforms that will save the lives of Black and Brown people in Wisconsin.” 

“When it comes to systematic racism, there are only two options to choose from: ending it or aiding it. Unfortunately, Republican members of the task force and law enforcement leaders believe there is a middle ground. We need change to be equivocal to the number of Black lives that have been harassed and even taken by the hands of law enforcement. The same agencies that the community is holding accountable for racial biases in profiling and using excessive force, even unto death, are the very agencies dictating how accountable they will be held to tax-paying citizens. Law enforcement has been calling the shots on all of these bills, and the renege on AB 108 proves it,” said ReBecca Burrell, member of the Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities. “Milwaukee alone is rated the worst place to raise a Black child. I have a Black child. The urgency of presenting real and progressive reform at the state level is imperative. We have seen the expedited and timely response to change at the federal level for the AAPI community. This same action has to be met by our officials here in Wisconsin. Wisconsin's motto is ‘Forward.’ Show the Black citizens of this state that we can move forward in putting an end to centuries-long systems of oppression and racism.”

The governor is also pressing the Legislature to take up provisions of his 2021-23 biennial budget proposal, including fully funding the purchase of body cameras for all state police officers and paying for the storage of data, creating a community violence interruption grant program, and providing more than $260,000 to create two full-time positions at the Wisconsin Department of Justice for the purpose of implicit bias training, emergency detention, and officer wellness.

The governor is calling for action on: 

Governor's August 2020 Special Session on Policing Accountability and Transparency

  • LRB-6274, relating to requiring law enforcement officers to complete at least eight hours of training on use of force options and de-escalation techniques.
  • LRB-6281, relating to creating 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-6275, relating to creating a $1 million 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. 

"Enough is Enough" Bill Package 

  • LRB-3429, relating to equipment of vehicles used by law enforcement agencies and training of law enforcement officers in first aid.
  • LRB-2840, relating to investigations of officer-involved deaths. 
  • LRB-2842, relating to grants for law enforcement officers to use risk assessment tools prior to making an arrest and making an appropriation. 
  • LRB-2838, relating to law enforcement training on use-of-force options and making an appropriation.

Speaker's Task Force on Racial Disparities Recommendations (not introduced)
The bills headed to the governor today are only a portion of the bills that reflect the task force’s recommendations with the majority of bills not having made it through the legislative process. It remains unclear whether those bills will pass the Senate. SB 120 and SB 165, which were slated to be sent to the governor following Assembly action today, have not yet passed the full Legislature. The fate of those bills remains unclear. 

  • LRB-2704, relating to creating an officer mental health support grant program and making an appropriation. 
  • LRB-3092, relating to crisis training for law enforcement officers and making an appropriation.