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Wisconsin task force on racial disparities releases recommendations on policing

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 9:37 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - One day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, Wisconsin’s task force on policing has released its recommendations on law enforcement policies and standards. It stops short of calling for a ban on choke holds, but recommends all patrol officers have a body camera.

The subcommittee on Law Enforcement Policies and Standards is a branch of the state Task Force on Racial Disparities.

The task force and subcommittee are led by Rep. Jim Steineke (R-District 5) and Rep. Sheila Stubbs (D-District 77).

The committee heard testimony from families who have been impacted by police use of force. They also heard from law enforcement on body cameras, training and the use of choke holds.

Here are some of the recommendations. CLICK HERE for the full report.

CHOKE HOLDS

State law does not regulate the use of choke holds by law enforcement. It does require each agency to have a written policy or standard on the use of choke holds.

The subcommittee made this recommendation:

“The subcommittee recommends creating a statewide prohibition against any law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policy authorizing the use of choke holds by law enforcement officers, except in life threatening situations or in self-defense, though one member opposes having any exceptions to the prohibition. In addition, the subcommittee recommends that “choke hold” be defined to include not only force that prevents or hinders breathing or air flow, but also force that hinders blood flow, such as carotid restraints.”

BODY CAMERAS

State law does not require Wisconsin police departments to use body cameras.

The subcommittee made these recommendations:

“The subcommittee recommends that all active duty law enforcement officers who are primarily assigned to patrol functions be equipped with a body camera. The subcommittee further recommends creating a funding mechanism to assist agencies with costs associated with body cameras. The subcommittee supports collaboration among law enforcement agencies to reduce costs, assuming third party vendors are willing to participate in such contracts. With respect to activation, the subcommittee recognizes that “24/7 activation” may be too costly and could raise privacy concerns for both officers and public citizens in certain situations. However, the subcommittee supports requiring body camera activation in certain situations in which an officer interacts with the public, such as enforcement and investigative contacts, or any other contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact in a situation that would not otherwise require activation.”

NO-KNOCK WARRANTS

State law allows officers to forcibly enter a person’s home without knocking under certain circumstances.

Here’s the subcommittee recommendation:

“The subcommittee recommends that DOJ collect data on the use of no-knock search warrants from all state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as federal law enforcement agencies, to the extent feasible. Collected data must include: (1) the number of no-knock search warrants applied for, granted, and executed, as compared to the number of knock-and-announce warrants; (2) the type of suspected crime for which any no-knock warrant was sought, granted, or executed; (3) the outcomes of executed no-knock warrants; (4) the race, age, and gender of any suspect identified in the warrant’s application. The subcommittee further recommends that DOJ publish a report on the collected data one year after the data collection requirement goes into effect. Some subcommittee members proposed banning the use of no-knock search warrants, with limited exceptions, while others expressed concern about imposing a ban in the absence of any statewide information on the prevalence of their use. Ultimately, the subcommittee lacked consensus on whether to recommend a prohibition against, or modification to, the use of no-knock search warrants.”

Rep. Steineke says, “Our report comes from methodical, purposeful discussions to find a path forward and includes recommendations that our subcommittee members agreed would be positive changes for both our communities and law enforcement.”

Rep Stubbs says, “We had many tough conversations over the past seven months, but I am proud we took the time to give these issues adequate consideration. Today we celebrate the progress of the Taskforce, but tomorrow we begin the hard work of making these recommendations a reality.”

Jim Palmer, executive director of the state’s largest police group, suggested lawmakers act on the recommendations.

“Through the Task Force on Racial Disparities, advocates for communities of color, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, and lawmakers from both parties came together for the first time ever to discuss how to evolve policing in Wisconsin. Resulting from several months of in-depth discussions, the recommendations released today represent a meaningful step forward in strengthening policing and the relationship between law enforcement and the communities it serves. If enacted, these measures will serve to increase law enforcement transparency and accountability, enhance the training and qualifications officers need to meet the demands of their profession, and provide local governments with more resources to better serve the public. We strongly support these measures and urge state lawmakers to act on them as soon as possible.

“Even if lawmakers act on these recommendations, there still remains considerable work to be done, and many members of the subcommittee are committed to continuing the incredibly important dialogue that the Task Force helped facilitate. None of us wants the results of our efforts to sit on a shelf and collect dust. While the final report is a testament to what can be achieved when motivated, thoughtful, and community-oriented people work together for a common good, it cannot be allowed to mark the end of our efforts.

“The Task Force co-chairs – Rep. Jim Steineke (R- Kaukauna) and Rep. Sheila Stubbs (D-Madison)– deserve great credit for masterfully providing leadership and direction to this diverse group as it worked to build a consensus of support for significant recommendations released today. I commend them for making sure that every member’s voice was heard, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to this significant endeavor. It has been an honor to work alongside these legislative leaders, community representatives and my law enforcement colleagues to arrive at a consensus on some of the vital issues facing our state.”

Jim Palmer, Executive Director, Wisconsin Professional Police Association

The Wisconsin Troopers’ Association applauded the Task Force recommendations.

“It is imperative that we continue our work and be proactive with our efforts to ensure accountability and safety in our communities,” stated WTA Executive Director Matt Johnson.

“Data collection, increased training, and other tools should be part of the solution, and the men and women on the Task Force were thorough and open-minded to finding resolutions. We are grateful for the time and energy put into this effort and we look forward to supporting policies that promote safety for all Wisconsin residents.”

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Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) issued this statement regarding the report Wednesday afternoon:

Action 2 News is following up on these findings and will have a full report tonight.

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