On Wednesday, January 20, Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) released draft versions of a package of bills, collectively called the “Public Safety PACT,” regulating law enforcement and use of force incidents in Wisconsin. The bills were circulated for co-sponsorship with a February 5 deadline.
All the bills except for one, currently titled LRB-0157, are co-sponsored by Senators Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee). LRB-0157 is co-sponsored by Sen. Darling only. LRB-0158 is also co-sponsored by Representative Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls).
The bills are as follows:
- LRB-0074: Creates an independent use of force advisory board to review incidents and issue an annual report
- LRB-0075: Requires all law enforcement agencies to have a standard policy for reporting all use of force incidents; provides whistleblower protections for officers who report use of force incidents
- LRB-0076: Requires law enforcement agencies to have a link on their website to request their use of force policy; the policy must be provided to the requestor for free within three days
- LRB-0157: Requires a municipality to maintain its law enforcement budget for hiring, training, and retaining officers unless it merges with another department or outsources its law enforcement to another entity; reduces the state’s shared revenue payment by the same amount if a city reduces its law enforcement budget
- LRB-0158: Affects the Police & Fire Commissions and Protective Services Boards in Milwaukee and Madison; requires public hearings and confirmation for all commissioners; requires mayors to add representatives from each service to the commissions; allows each commission to appoint its own director
- LRB-0160: Requires the Department of Justice to publish an annual report on use of force incidents
- LRB-0183: Prohibits the use of chokeholds in law enforcement use of force policies, except in life-threatening or self-defense situations
- LRB-0184: Establishes a $600,000 grant program for cities with a population of 60,000 or more to fund community-oriented policing-house programs
Several of the bills, including LRB-0075, -0076, -0160, and -0183, are modified versions of policies that were previously recommended by Governor Tony Evers and the Legislative Black Caucus.
Many of these bills cover topics that have been discussed by the Legislature’s Subcommittee on Law Enforcement Policies and Standards, part of the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities. The subcommittee held its most recent meeting on Thursday, January 21, where the committee heard testimony from experts on law enforcement use of force and discussed possible policy recommendations.