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Task force releases set of police reform recommendations

police task force

MADISON (WKOW) -- More than seven months after the creation of a statewide task force aimed at addressing racial disparities in Wisconsin law enforcement, a subcommittee on policing released Wednesday a set of 18 recommended changes to state policy.

The board was comprised of a mix of community activists and law enforcement professionals. Even within the final set of recommendations, there were noted disagreements on several of the items.

The recommendations include:

  • Creation of a "duty to intervene" law, punishable under misconduct in office laws
  • Whistleblower protections for cops who report a colleague using excessive force
  • Ban the use of chokeholds with the exception of life-saving situations or in self-defense. At least one member of the panel disagreed with having any exceptions; a similar bill proposed by Governor Evers last summer did not include any exceptions
  • Require departments to post their use-of-force policy either on the department or municipality's website
  • Create a statewide use-of-force standard, although it's noted in the report the committee couldn't agree on how to define excessive force. Activists wanted the word 'proportional' in that definition; police members opposed the idea
  • Create an independent use-of-force review board. Following the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) drafted a bill creating a review panel modeled after how the NTSB investigates plane crashes
  • Have all cops wear body cameras with the state providing funding to local departments to pay for the equipment
  • Create a statewide database for the reporting of all use-of-force incidents and times where an officer points their gun at someone.
  • Collect statewide data on the use of no-knock warrants. Some members supported banning the use of no-knock warrants with limited exceptions but others disagreed saying they wanted to see data on their use first
  • Require agencies to keep an employment file on officers. New guidelines would ban hiring officers at a new department if they refused access to a past file
  • Require agencies to have policies for drug/alcohol testing for officers following a critical incident in which either death or serious injury occurred
  • Make psychological exams part of the hiring process for officers
  • Create statewide training standards for school resource officers
  • Require ongoing crisis training for officers; the recommendation did not include specifics on how many hours or how often such training should happen
  • Create new grounds under which an officer can be decertified, including situations where an officer is found to have committed domestic violence
  • Expand violence prevention grants, including the already-existing COP house program. One of the activist members, Rebecca Burrell of Milwaukee, requested the report note she disagreed with COP house programs receiving grant funding altogether
  • Expand partnerships between police agencies and mental health groups to improve crisis response programs. Madison is funding a pilot partnership with Oregon-based CAHOOTS, which emphasizes sending mental health professionals, instead of armed police, to calls for someone having a mental health crisis while not presenting an imminent danger to others
  • Create "legal consequences" for someone who calls the police on someone for the purpose of causing "certain adverse outcomes"

The recommendations are all just that—recommendations. Some tie into previously drafted bills. The challenge now for the task force's co-chairs, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Rep. Sheila Stubbs (D-Madison) is getting enough support to turn the ideas into bills that can eventually reach the desk of Gov. Evers.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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