Gov. Evers Calls Special Session on Policing Accountability and Transparency; Legislature Responds

In response of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, on August 24, Gov. Evers called a special session of the legislature to address policing accountability and transparency to begin on August 31, 2020. The Senate and the Assembly gaveled in for the special session but met in “skeletal session,” meaning they did not actually meet to conduct business and pass legislation.

The governor’s special session call included nine bills that were previously announced by the governor in June, including proposals for the elimination of no-knock warrants by law enforcement, a ban of chokehold by law enforcement, changes to use-of-force policies and reporting, creation of a civil penalty for racial profiling, and the establishment of a $1 million violence prevention grant program.

On August 26, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) released a package of eight bills entitled the Public Safety and “Police Accountability, Community Involvement and Transparency or “PACT” to improve upon police accountability and transparency of law enforcement practices – some of which include changes to the governor’s proposed bills.

The PACT package includes the establishment of an independent use-of-force review advisory board, use-of-force policy requirements, transparency and reporting, changes to the Milwaukee police and fire commission, establishment of a community-oriented policing housing grant program, prohibition on choke holds in a law enforcement agency’s policy or standard, and a bill to reduce state aid if a municipality reduces police funding.

Sen. Wanggaard, a retired police officer, noted in his press release, the bill package was developed “over months, and in some cases, years, of conversations with law enforcement, victims’ advocates, national experts, and Republican and Democratic elected officials, including Governor Evers and Attorney General Kaul.”

In the Assembly, Assembly Speaker Vos (R-Rochester) created a task force focusing on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards. Recently the Speaker announced, Republican Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Rep. Stubbs (D-Madison) will co-chair the bi-partisan task force.

According to media reports, the task force will finalize membership in the coming weeks. Starting at the end of September, the task force plans to meet every two or three weeks until the next legislative session begins in January.