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Wisconsin racial justice task force issues recommendations

Jacob Blake's family will host a community gathering in Kenosha ahead of Trump visit
Posted at 10:26 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 19:24:41-04

The Wisconsin Assembly’s bipartisan racial disparities task force created in the wake of a white Kenosha police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, is making 18 recommendations. Blake was left paralyzed by the shooting.

The recommendations were announced the day after a jury found former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty in Floyd’s death.

But the group stopped short Wednesday of calling for a total ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants as Gov. Tony Evers wants.

The group could also not reach a consensus on how to define what constitutes excessive police use of force for the purposes of a statewide definition.

The Democratic governor had also proposed creating a statewide definition as part of a package after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Tory Lowe, radio host at 101.7 The Truth and a member of the task force, said the use of force was one of the areas most important to him.

“We want to make sure that we’re defining these things so we can understand when these things do happen was it justified," Lowe said.

In addition to the use of force, the recommendations focus on accountability, training, and community engagement. When it comes to accountability, the task force is really pushing for the expansion of body cameras.

"[Body cameras are] something that while agencies in Wisconsin continue to add that technology and implement those programs, more needs to be done," said task force member and Executive Director of Wisconsin Professional Police Association Jim Palmer.

According to a Wisconsin Department of Justice report released in January, more than a third of Wisconsin Law enforcement agencies don't use body cameras. Per the report, 32 of those agencies are in southeast Wisconsin. Kenosha Police Department is one of the agencies that does not use body cameras and was the agency involved in the Jacob Blake shooting.

“Even if that body-worn camera video depicts an officer doing something wrong, we can learn from it, we can correct it that we might not otherwise be able to without that invaluable data,” Palmer said.

State Assembly Majority Leader Representative Jim Steineke said he hopes the recommendations will be headed to lawmakers in Madison for a vote sometime in June.

Steineke is a co-chair of the subcommittee that released the recommendations. In a statement he said:

“I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan work we’ve done to have the hard conversations that will make a difference in the lives of people of color in Wisconsin. As we all know, this issue can be incredibly polarizing, yet we have succeeded in bringing the community and law enforcement voices to the table and finding consensus where available and moving forward, together.

“Our report comes from methodical, purposeful discussions to find a path forward and includes recommendations that our subcommittee members agreed would be positive changes for both our communities and law enforcement."

Representative Shelia Stubbs is also a co-chair, in a statement she said:

“Seven months ago, The Speakers Taskforce on Racial Disparities was created to end racial disparities that exist at every age and in every aspect of a person’s life across the State of Wisconsin. Devastating instances of police violence highlighted the need to reform our policing system. As a legislator, and as a Black mother, I could not stand by as these events tarnished the relationship between the community, and law enforcment.”

“When we created this Taskforce, we made it clear that the time for partisan games was over. We brought community leaders, leaders of faith, and experts in law enforcment to the table to draft recommendations that would be the basis of bipartisan legislation. Today I am proud to say that the recommendations of this Subcommittee have been finalized, and we will be delivering our report to Speaker Vos.”

To view the entire list of recommendations, click here.

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