(The Center Square) – Whatever happens with police reform in Wisconsin, it’s not going to happen this week.
The Wisconsin legislature spent less than a minute in special session Monday. Gov. Tony Evers called the session last week after Jacob Blake’s shooting in Kenosha. He asked the Republican-controlled legislature to take up a series of proposals they had passed on previously.
Monday was no different.
“After the tragic events this past week, the best way forward is not through divisive and partisan politics but through bipartisan cooperation,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement.
Vos has promised a Speaker’s Task Force on police reform, which he says will give serious consideration to a number of issues including “racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards.”
“Republicans, Democrats, local leaders and state public health officials have all expressed an interest in participating. In order to have a more productive and meaningful dialogue, the task force will now include community members,” Vos said of his task force.
Evers on Monday had a different take.
“The people of Wisconsin don’t want another task force or more delays – they want action and results, and they want it today, not tomorrow or some day months down the road,” the governor said on Twitter. “It’s disappointing that there’s no sense of urgency from Republicans, and it’s a let down to all the people who are asking us to lead. We have been talking about these bills for months, and Republicans have had plenty of time to consider them on the merits.”
Republicans have had at least two opportunities to consider the plans, but have rejected them on both occasions.
The centerpiece of the governor’s package of legislation is a proposal to have one statewide set of rules for all police departments and sheriffs’ offices in Wisconsin. That’s a no-go with Republicans. The other major piece of legislation the governor wants is a law that says police officers can use force only as a last resort. Many police departments say that’s already the case.
Both Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have said they will hold hearings and public meetings on police reform, but also have said that any action or reforms in Wisconsin is likely months away.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.