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MADISON – Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, on Wednesday unveiled the Public Safety PACT, a package of eight bills aimed at law enforcement and criminal justice reform.
A retired Racine police officer, Wanggaard said he’ll be working to get support for the legislative package from both sides of the aisle for the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2021 session. However, half of his proposals would modify bills in a policing reform legislative package announced in June by Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. The governor, earlier this week, called the Legislature into special session to take up his six-bill package starting next Monday (Aug. 31).
“The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers do an outstanding job. It’s important to remember that,” Wanggaard said in a news release. “That doesn’t mean policing can’t be improved. The breakdown in trust didn’t occur overnight in some communities, and it won’t be fixed overnight. By increasing accountability, transparency and community involvement, more people will be able to see that good, quality policing is in every community’s best interest.”
Wanggaard said that the Public Safety PACT “has been developed over months, and in some cases, years, with conversations with law enforcement, victims’ advocates, national experts and Republican and Democratic elected officials, including Gov. Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.”
Criminal justice reform discussions in Wisconsin accelerated this spring after the officer-involved deaths of Black citizens George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes issued their legislative package on June 19 after several weeks of statewide protests over racial injustice. The governor called the Legislature into session in the wake of Sunday’s officer-involved shooting of another Black citizen, Jacob Blake of Kenosha. That incident has sparked at least three days of protests and civil unrest.
In his statement, Wanggaard, whose district includes much of Racine and Kenosha counties, insisted that the timing of the release of his legislative package and the recent events in Kenosha is “purely coincidental.”
“I don’t, and no one else should, view this as a ‘competition’ with the special session bills,” said Wanggaard. “I’ve been developing these bills for months and, in some cases, years, and got the last final draft back after eight revision yesterday (Tuesday). The PACT should not be considered a Republican package of bills. I put the PACT together with input from a lot of parties, including Republicans and Democrats, with the goal of improving police service and its interaction with the community.”
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, is a co-sponsor on all eight of the PACT bills. Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, is a co-sponsor of a bill dealing with the make-up of fire and police commissions.
The Public Safety PACT legislation package consists of:
- A bill (LRB 2694) creating an Independent Use of Force Review Advisory Board that would investigate and learn from certain police use of force incidents.
- A bill (LRB 6341) requiring mandatory reporting of the use of force providing whistleblower protections for officers who report use of force incidents. (The bill modifies proposed legislation in the Evers package.)
- A bill (LRB 6339) increasing community involvement is existing Police & Fire Commissions in place in Milwaukee and Madison.
- A bill (LRB 6349) creating a $600,000 grant program for cities to establish Community Oriented Policing (COP) Houses, modeled after a Racine area program.
- A bill (LRB 6346) requiring law enforcement agencies to have a link on their websites allowing the public to request the agency’s use-of-force policy. (This bill modifies proposed legislation in the Evers package.)
- A bill (LRB 6350) requiring the Wisconsin Department of Justice to publish an annual report on use-of-force incidents by law enforcement. (This bill modifies proposed legislation in the Evers package.)
- A bill (LRB 6338) prohibiting officer training in the use of choke holds. (This bill modifies proposed legislation in the Evers package.)
- A bill (LRB 6348) requiring Wisconsin municipalities to maintain law enforcement budgets or face loss of state shared revenue.
The bill drafts can be found on Wangaard’s website: www.senatorwanggaard.com