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Wisconsin Assembly approves penalty for defunding police

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Madison police
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Squad cars are lined up outside the Madison Police Department.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a Republican-backed bill that would penalize local governments that attempt to defund police.

The bill passed Tuesday, which the Senate passed earlier this month, is expected to be vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.

The bill would reduce funding for cities and villages by the same amount they cut from their police and fire budgets. Municipalities would also lose state funding if they reduce the number of police officer and firefighter positions, even if their overall spending on the departments remained the same.

During his remarks on the Assembly floor Tuesday, Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) singled out Madison and its increase last year in reports of shots fired and stolen cars.

"That clearly relates to the attitude that the people, unfortunately, in some of these municipalities have had toward standing behind the men and women who are sworn to protect each of us," Vos said.

Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) responded by saying cities should have the ability to fund programs they believe will reduce the need for a police response without fear of punishment from the state.

"Most of the prevention comes from outside of the police department," Subeck said. "Typically, by the time you are calling the police, a crime has happened or a crime is in progress. Prevention takes real investment in community resources."

The bill's sponsor in the Assembly, Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) said he was not sure how many municipalities would be affected by the Senate amendment that added penalties for cities and villages that reduce police and firefighter positions.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum reported in late 2019 a number of the state's biggest cities were dealing with that very problem -- spending more on police despite less staffing, citing rising salaries and overtime costs.

Also on Tuesday, Evers signed into law a bill banning police use of chokeholds, except in self defense, and three other policing measures that passed last week with bipartisan support.

Check out more Wisconsin news here.

Associated Press

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Associated Press

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A. J. Bayatpour

Capitol Bureau Chief

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