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Sunday, September 26, 2021
racial disparities task force

The subcommittee discussed chokeholds and no-knock warrants among other policies. Co-chair Sheila Stubbs said there may be obstacles to getting bills through the Senate. 

Racial disparities task force considers police conduct policies

The Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities Subcommittee on Law Enforcement Policies and Standards met Thursday to discuss officer misconduct, use of force and duty to intervene, data collection, no-knock search warrants, community engagement and school resource officers.

The task force is co-chaired by Reps. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison, and members include religious leaders, heads of social justice organizations and people involved in law enforcement. The goal of the subcommittee is to reduce racial disparities in law enforcement practices.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, established the task force in the weeks following the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha. Gov. Tony Evers had called for the legislature to come into a special session but Republican lawmakers immediately adjourned it. Some Democrats criticized Republicans for not taking more leadership.  

In February, Up North News first reported that following the shooting of Jacob Blake, Steineke emailed Vos and said that “leading the [task force] for anyone is probably a political loser,” drawing some criticism, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The task force heard a presentation from DeRay McKesson and Katie Ryan from Campaign Zero regarding no-knock search warrants and use of force. Campaign Zero is a non-profit organization working to analyze policing practices across the country and research effective solutions to end police violence. The organization’s proposed solutions to use of force have already been adopted in roughly 320 cities and their solutions to no-knocks are used in 47 cities and states.

The task force recommended a ban on chokeholds and an increase in data collection when force is used by officers. Ryan explained to the task force that while many of the recommendations made regarding use of force were commendable, they could be taken further in order to reduce racial disparities in the state.

Ryan recommended a ban on all types of neck restraints, as well as mandatory use of de-escalation techniques prior to any firearm use.

In McKesson’s presentation on no-knock warrants, he explained that Campaign Zero has fifteen recommendations for conducting searches and the Speaker’s Task Force fulfilled three and a half of them.

The task force included requirements for officers to announce themselves and for searches to be completed in the daytime unless otherwise authorized. McKesson recommended including guidelines for prolonged wait-times, restrictions on stun devices and more.

Following the meeting, Stubbs thanked the presenters in a statement Friday and said "we owe it to Breonna Taylor and her loved ones to reform the broken practices that led to her death." 

"I refuse to let the issue of No-Knock warrants go unaddressed, and I remain committed to passing meaningful reform in the state of Wisconsin," she said.

Rep. LaKeshia Myers, D-Milwaukee, introduced "Breonna's Law" to the legislature in early February, which would ban no-knock warrants.

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Although the task force was unable to complete their discussions on the policies, the co-chairs emphasized Vos’ dedication to moving forward with the task force’s recommendations once they were solidified.

“[Vos] did commit to moving forward with the recommendations from his task force,” Stubbs said. “To get the bills assigned to a committee and then to have it out of the committee and on the Assembly floor and pass from the Assembly floor. That’s what he can commit to on the Assembly side.”

Stubbs went on to explain, however, that getting the recommendations through the Assembly side was only half the battle.

“I think the other part of that conversation is there’s the Senate side, which we have to work with Senators and there are no Senators on this task force to try and help us navigate those bills,” said Stubbs. “If we can’t get it through the Senate side they’re kind of dead on arrival.”

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Emma Grenzebach

state news writer

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