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Wisconsin police union unveils 24 police reform legislative proposals

The police organization wants to have an open discourse with lawmakers and others to improve...
The police organization wants to have an open discourse with lawmakers and others to improve policing in Wisconsin(WTMV)
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 6:34 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The largest police union in Wisconsin has unveiled a set of 24 legislative proposals addressing policing reform in the state, a sweeping package that ranges from required deescalation training for all Wisconsin law enforcement to new criminal penalties for individuals involved in public violence, called ’riot penalties’. The bills echo several elements of legislation introduced by Governor Tony Evers and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes in June, but stops short of some measures like a ban on no-knock warrants and includes more than a dozen other proposals that the Wisconsin Professional Police Association hopes Republicans in the legislature will consider.

The “Blueprint for Change” package will be taken under advisement in addition to the Democrats’ legislative proposals, Rep. Jim Steineke told NewsChannel 7 on Wednesday. He’s been assigned to chair Speaker Robin Vos’s task force addressing police reform and the state’s racial divide, which isn’t expected to take action until after the November election. Monday, Governor Tony Evers called legislators into a special session to take up police reform legislation, but Republican leaders gavelled into recess seconds after opening the session.

The WPPA has been working on the proposal since George Floyd’s death in May, Palmer said, and includes reforms like channeling more funding into community and alternative policing models that incorporate mental health professionals and social workers as well as extended data reporting from the Wisconsin Department of Justice on issues like use of force. Currently, use-of-force guidelines and incident reporting isn’t standardized around the state, and was a component of the legislative proposals Evers introduced earlier in the year.

“It is okay and it is acceptable to support the cause for social justice and at the same time support the very difficult and dangers jobs that law enforcement officers have to do,” Palmer said. He sees the proposals as bridging a partisan divide and wants to “break away from a trend” of polarization when discussing police reform.

The motion comes while individual municipalities like Wausau are moving forward with policing task forces designed to examine similar issues. Wausau police chief Ben Bliven, who says that based on a preliminary review supports the proposals, notes that there could be some overlap between statewide reform and the measures the task force could take up.

“I’m a little bit concerned about that, but that’s something I think we can work through,” Bliven said.

Everest Metro police chief Clayton Schulz believes statewide standardization of certain policies can be beneficial, but problematic for smaller departments who may be required to spend time on “things that don’t apply.”

“I’m not a big proponent of the ‘one size fits all,’” he said. “There are challenges that are in the southern part of the state that are different than the northern part of the state, just based on demographics, geography.”

For Wausau advocate and president of the People for the Power of Love organization Chris Norfleet, he welcomes many of the proposal but wants to see a broader approach to reform when connected to the needs of the Black community.

“There’s not enough people focusing on economic acumen, business, infrastructure, the disparities in this infrastructure, the realignment of education,” he said. “These are the things that we really do need to dig into. These are the things that push the law enforcement and black community away from each other.”

Read the complete WPPA proposals below. This coverage will be updated.

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