… we have a small favor to ask. Thousands of people have placed their trust in the Racine County Eye’s high-impact journalism because we focus on solutions-based journalism.

With no shareholders or billionaire owners, we can provide trustworthy journalism that focuses on helping readers.

Unlike many others, Racine County Eye’s journalism is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of events, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action.

If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism and sustains our future. Support the Racine County Eye from as little as $5 – it only takes a minute. Thank you.


Your contribution is appreciated.

More than a month after the death of George Floyd led to protests across the country, calls to reform police have reached the decibel levels of a thunderbolt. State Democrats have released several bills they say will improve policing in Wisconsin. So have some from the GOP.

But with the election less than four months away, Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature say they are unlikely to call a session before next year.

At the federal level, a bill that would make relatively minor changes to police departments was blocked by Democrats in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, while a much wider-ranging bill that would make greater changes to policing passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but has little to no chance of passage in the Senate. The divide means it’s unlikely anything will happen at the national level, at least for now.

While it seems unlikely that legislative changes will occur anywhere anytime soon, in some ways, Wisconsin is already ahead of many states when it comes to policing. The Badger Project took a look at the laws and practices already on the books here.


Six years ago, when Wisconsin required outside, independent investigations of all police-related deaths, it was the first state in the country to do so.

In 2014, then-Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill ordering all police departments to establish a policy requiring deaths at the hands of a police officer be investigated by at least two people not employed by the department. The measure also allows for a second, internal investigation.

Henry Smart III, assistant professor of public administration and
policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York

And the law mandates that investigators provide their report to the district attorney, who must release it to the public if he or she decides not to prosecute the accused officer.

Since 2015, law enforcement officers in Wisconsin have shot and killed 93 people, according to the Washington Post’s database. Nationwide, fatal police shootings stand at nearly 5,500 in that time frame. Wisconsin’s fatal police shootings make up 1.7% of that total. By comparison, the state population amounts to about 1.8 percent of the nation’s population.

Critics say the law for investigating police related-deaths in Wisconsin is weak, allowing cops to ask their friends from the department in the next town over to conduct the investigation.

Henry Smart III, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former Marine, said that in order to ensure fairness, these types of laws should include language that requires a truly independent investigation, one with “adequate distance from the police organizations.”

“If not, we will repeat past failures,” Smart said.


The federal bill House Democrats passed would do many things, including enact a nationwide “bad cop” registry to document officers fired for cause — a measure that would make it difficult for abusive or malicious officers to be hired by another department after being fired from one.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice launched its own “bad cop” registry in 2017.

Since then, nearly 600 officers in Wisconsin have been logged in the system, either for being fired, or for resigning during or after a misconduct investigation, said Steven Wagner, director of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Training and Standards Bureau.

Steven Wagner, director of the Wisconsin Department of Justice
Training and Standards Bureau. He was formerly an officer for the
Racine Police Department.

Police departments must report the firings or resignations to his bureau, Wagner said, but state law does not require law enforcement agencies to check the registry before hiring an officer. It’s merely a resource departments can use to check an applicant’s background.

In addition, information on the fired or terminated police officers is publicly available through the state’s Open Records law, Wagner said. Many police union contracts across the country prohibit departments from disclosing any information on former employees, Smart noted. Wisconsin’s tracking and access to those records makes its regulations on policing “a step better than most,” he added.


One of the most frequent complaints against police is that they are quick to use force against citizens they are supposed to protect and serve.

In January, the Wisconsin Department of Justice sought to address that issue by announcing it would begin collecting police force incidents that resulted in deaths, serious injury or firearm discharges at or towards people.

Officers in Wisconsin are not taught to use chokeholds, Jim Palmer, head of the state’s largest police union, said last month on the public affairs program Two Bald Guys. Chokeholds are legal in the state, although the Wisconsin Professional Police Association supports banning them, and supports the creation of a national “bad cop” registry, Palmer said. Both were included in the stalled federal House bill.

All in all, the laws and policy in Wisconsin regarding policing are better than a lot of other states, Smart said.

“Give yourself a B,” he said of Wisconsin. “Because you’re trying, but there’s room for improvement.”

This article was originally posted on The Badger Project. The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported, investigative journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

Check out the Racine County COVID-19 dashboard


Your contribution is appreciated.

Advertising disclosure
To support our site and content, we work with partners to present valuable offers to help you save, earn, and get ahead. We may be compensated for the purchase of goods and services made through the links in this offer program.
Offers for you
Curated offers for our readers
advertiser disclosure
Coding for kids! Introducing programming games for the next generation. Get your kids coding today.
Start with a free trial.
Start with a free trial.

Get your students coding in no time!

CodeMonkey is a fun and educational game-based environment where kids learn to code without any prior experience. After completing CodeMonkey's award-winning coding courses, kids will be able to navigate through the programming world with a sense of confidence and accomplishment.

Kids will love learning to code with CodeMonkey

  • Ready to Go Courses. With CodeMonkey’s teacher kit and support team, anyone can teach the basics of computer science.
  • Real Coding Languages. CodeMonkey's courses teach text-based coding so students learn to program like a real developer.
  • Game-Based Learning. Kids learn coding in an engaging and rewarding environment that utilizes gaming elements.

Free Trial - Enjoy a full-blown gaming experience that will teach your kids to code!