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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    May 24, 2021

    State Senate Approves Bi-Partisan Police Reform Bills

    Two packages of bills on law enforcement reform were introduced in the legislature this session. The State Bar is supporting several of these bills, some of which were recently approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.
    Police officer stock photo

    May 24, 2021 – During a recent session, the State Senate began debating and adopting a package of bills dealing with law enforcement reform, authored by Senator Van Wanggard (R – Racine) and Senator Lena Taylor (D – Milwaukee). The bills focus largely on reporting and public notices. However it also includes a grant program to fund community-oriented policing-house programs. With its recently adopted policy positions, the State Bar is supporting some of those bills. A summary of the State Bar supported bills follows:

    • SB-118/AB-112​  Law Enforcement Use of Force Review Board, introduced by Rep. Jesse James (R – Altoona) and Sen. Van Wanggaard. This bill would create an independent use of force review advisory board, which would conduct independent investigations of deaths and serious injuries resulting from an action or omission of a law enforcement officer.

    • SB-120/AB-108  Law Enforcement Use of Force Reporting, introduced by Rep. John Spiros, (R – Marshfield) and Sen. Van Wanggaard. This bill changes when and how law enforcement agencies must report use of force incidents, and prohibits disciplining a law enforcement officer for reporting a violation of an agency's policy or standard regarding the use of force.

    • SB-122/AB-110  Law Enforcement Use of Force Policy - Public Notices, introduced by Rep. Spiros and Sen. Wanggaard. This bill makes changes to the public noticing requirements for law enforcement agencies’ use of force policies.

    • SB-123/AB-109  Law Enforcement Use of Force Reporting – DOJ, introduced by Rep. Spiros and Sen. Wanggaard.  This bill directs the Department of Justice to collect information and publish an annual report on law enforcement use of force incidents, injuries, and firearm discharges. It also requires demographic data on such incidents to be collected and reported. 

    • SB-124/AB-258  Community-Oriented Policing Grant, introduced by Rep. Spiros and Sen. Wanggaard. This bill creates a community-oriented policing-house grant program in the amount of $600,000.

    Senate Bills 120, 122, 123, and 124 were approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, but has yet to act on SB 118. The Senate subsequently passed SB 122, 123, and 124. The bills will now make their way to the Assembly.

    Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities

    In late 2020, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called for a Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities to be created, led by Rep. Jim Steineke (R - Kaukauna) and Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D - Madison). Over the course of several months, the task force examined potential reforms to law enforcement. Eighteen recommendations were made, which resulted in a slate of legislation that was formally introduced in the state Assembly on May 21, 2021. The bills introduced include the following:

    • Assembly Bill 329  No-Knock Warrants. This bill requires the Department of Justice to report on the use of no-knock entry in the execution of a search warrant.

    • Assembly Bill 330  Resource Officers. This bill requires the Office of School Safety in the Department of Justice to develop standards and approve a certified training program for school resource officers.

    • Assembly Bill 331  Law Enforcement. This bill will require prospective law enforcement officers to complete a psychological examination prior to employment. 

    • Assembly Bill 332  Law Enforcement. This bill requires that each Wisconsin law enforcement officer complete as part of his or her recertification training at least four hours of crisis management training on a biennial basis.

    • Assembly Bill 333  Crisis Program Grants. This bill changes requirements for eligibility for local governments to receive crisis program enhancement grants. 

    • Assembly Bill 334  Law Enforcement. This bill requires law enforcement agencies to adopt policies regarding drug testing when officers are involved in certain critical incidents while on duty. 

    • Assembly Bill 335  Camera Grants. This bill requires the Department of Justice to provide grants to law enforcement agencies for body cameras.

    The State Bar, working under its newly adopted policy positions, will be adding its support to many of these bills as well.

    Other State Bar Supported Legislation

    On May 19, the Assembly Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight held a public hearing on Assembly Bills 108, 109, and 110. Besides for the State Bar of Wisconsin, several professional police associations, the City of Milwaukee, and conservative organizations Americans for Prosperity and the Badger Institute registered and/or testified in favor of the bills. That same day, the Assembly Local Government Committee held a public hearing on AB 258, supported by several of the same organizations as the aforementioned bills.

    What You Can Do: State Bar of Wisconsin Advocacy Network

    Advocacy Network

    State Bar members are encouraged to send a message to their lawmakers expressing support on legislative topics which positively affect the legal system using the Advocacy Network. The pre-written email message is editable to suit your own thoughts and opinions, and will help to demonstrate the breadth of support for policies that prioritize access to justice.

    You can also subscribe to the Rotunda Report and follow us on Twitter to stay informed and get involved in the legislative process.

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