Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order Monday calling for the Legislature to take up bills on police accountability and transparency at a special session to begin Aug. 31.
The governor had originally proposed the package of bills in June, following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Monday’s order comes after Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times in the back on Sunday. On Monday afternoon, Evers said he’s received no information indicating Blake was armed.
For months, protesters across the state have called for police to be defunded. On Sunday night, protests in Kenosha turned heated with police using tear gas to manage the crowds. On Monday, Evers said 125 members of the National Guard would be dispatched to Kenosha.
"Frankly I should not need to call a special session when people across our state from the streets of my small hometown of Plymouth to the streets of Milwaukee are demanding their elected leaders take action," he said.
The legislative package would include the following measures:
- The creation of a statewide use-of-force policy.
- A ban on no-knock search warrants and chokeholds.
- Additional de-escalation training requirements for police.
- A requirement for law enforcement agencies to publish their policies online, and for the Department of Justice to publish an annual report on incidents in which officers use force.
Evers noted that Iowa and Minnesota passed police reform bills of their own this summer.
On Monday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced the creation of a speaker’s task force on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety and police policies.
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Vos said he spoke to Evers on the phone Monday morning, asking the governor to allow legislators to address the issue of police accountability through the task force.
"We have an opportunity to bring people together to find solutions. Instead, the governor is choosing to turn to politics again by dictating liberal policies that will only deepen the divisions in our state," he said in a statement.
In response to the task force, Evers said he believes it’s time for action.
Evers can call a special session, but can't force the Assembly to convene. If the Legislature fails to move on these measures, Evers said he'll do what he can through executive actions. However, he said the Legislature and the executive branch must work together to achieve real change, noting that some of the bills already have Republican support.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes echoed Evers belief that the task force doesn’t go far enough.
"This is just another abdication of responsibility. Racial injustice in this state has existed long before Robin Vos was the Assembly Speaker, so for him to just decide now is the time for a task force shows that he is once again late to the party," he said.