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'Live up to our promises of equity and justice': Gov. Tony Evers orders legislature into special session to address policing accountability

Posted at 1:38 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 15:13:04-04

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers is calling for a special legislative session Monday to consider a group of bills that address policing in Wisconsin.

The governor's call comes a day after the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Sunday night when Kenosha police officers shot Blake several times in the back while he trying to get back into a car. Police say they were initially responding to a domestic incident in the area.

MORE COVERAGE: Jacob Blake: Man Shot By Kenosha Police Officer During 'Domestic Incident'

On Monday, Gov. Evers issued an executive order to call the legislature into session on policing accountability and transparency. The special session is set for Aug. 31, 2020.

During a press conference, Evers said that "Wisconsin's legislative leaders have failed to act."

"This movement has touched every corner of Wisconsin, and frankly I should not have to call for a special session," Evers said. "Leaders show up. Leaders do the work that needs to be done... We cannot wait for Republican leadership to show up for work - because clearly they intend to keep us waiting. That's not going to cut it."

Evers added during a press conference that he expects Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to gavel in, gavel out the special session, thus ending the proposal in the GOP-dominated legislature. "In general he seemed to be unmoved by my request," Evers said.

Speaker Vos said in a statement that he asked the governor to work with the legislature "in a deliberate and open process" via a new task force the speaker announced Monday.

“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," Vos said.

The governor had previously called the legislature into special sessions following the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd to discuss implementing policy accountability measures. However, the legislature did not take up the measures proposed at the time.

Reaction from Republicans

On Monday, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced a new task force that he says will address issues like racial disparities and public safety.

"The Kenosha community deserves to know the totality of the circumstances leading up to the shooting. Before passing judgment, we have to know if the shocking 20-second video clip shared with the media tells the whole story," said Vos in a statement.

Vos also acknowledged the protests that went on in Kenosha Sunday night following the shooting.

"The demonstrators' complete disregard to public safety, damage to personal property, and the attack on police. Moving forward, I encourage those who would like to express their frustration and anger to do so peacefully," he said.

Vos said the new task force that will focus on "racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards. We must find a path forward as a society that brings everyone together.”

Blake was airlifted to a Milwaukee hospital, where he is recovering, family say.

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