Wisconsin legislature task force on racial disparity pushes police reform, bipartisan conversation

'This is about checking your politics at the door,' state representative elected to task force says

· Sep 9, 2020 Tweet

Ahmad Hamid/The Badger Herald

During a nationwide debate on policing standards, a Wisconsin state legislature’s task force on racial disparity elected new leadership Tuesday with hopes to bring legislation to the table by next year.

The Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparity co-chairs — Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and newly elected Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) — said they would have legislation on Wisconsin’s chamber floor by early January to address police practices, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

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The task force will consider nine bills addressing police brutality proposed by Governor Tony Evers last June. Additionally, the task force will examine legislation put forth last week by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, according to the WSJ. The bills would include a ban on no-knock warrants, mandate training on de-escalation techniques and create statewide standards on the use of police force.

On Sept. 3, Gov. Evers ordered a special session to discuss nine bills in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting because there has been no formal discussion, according to WSJ. Under the current GOP-dominated legislature, the package of bills has not made progress in the legislature for nearly three weeks after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The session remains open, though empty.

Despite the state’s inaction on police brutality and racial disparity, both Steineke and Stubbs said this time around, things will be different, according to WSJ.

“I want all these bills to have real criminal justice reform and in order to have reform, you have to have change,” Stubbs said. “This is about checking your politics at the door. I’m not going to waste my time [doing] something that’s not going to make a difference.”

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Steineke said one of the differences with the new package of bills is it will be able to bring both Republicans and Democrats to the table. Steineke said past legislation, such as previous bills brought forth by Gov. Evers, did not try to “bring Republicans and Democrats together,” according to the WSJ.

For the first time, the task force will be mainly composed of community members, according to the WSJ. Stubbs said letting the community drive the conversation is critical.

“We will be more outnumbered by the community, which is a great thing,” Stubbs said.

The task force will commence late September or early October. The task force will not have any power besides reviewing and proposing legislation and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) will be able to veto or change any of their proposals.

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