A subcommittee of the Wisconsin Assembly’s bipartisan Task Force on Racial Disparities issued recommendations on policing Wednesday but stopped short of recommending sweeping changes to chokehold and no-knock warrant policies.
The report was released one day after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd.
Reps. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, co-chair both the task force and its subcommittee on Law Enforcement Policies and Standards.
The subcommittee did not recommend a total ban on chokeholds, but recommended prohibiting law enforcement agencies from authorizing officers to use them except in life threatening situations or in self-defense through their use of force policies.
Subcommittee members also recommended that “chokehold” be defined to include force that interferes with blood flow in addition to force that hinders breathing.
The subcommittee, split on whether to impose a ban on no-knock warrants, did not recommend any immediate changes to statewide no-knock warrant policy. Wisconsin law currently allows police officers to forcibly enter a person’s home without knocking under specified circumstances.
A nationwide reckoning over race and no-knock warrants set in motion after Louisville police fatally shot 26-year-old Breonna Taylor at least eight times in her own home last year while reportedly searching for drugs, though none were found at the scene.
Subcommittee members recommended that the state Department of Justice publish a report on no-knock search warrant data from all state and local law enforcement agencies within a year following a data collection requirement.
The report would include a section for the race, age and gender of any suspect identified in each warrant’s application. Such a report could reveal disproportionate targeting of communities of color with no-knock warrants.
While Wisconsin law does not mandate police to wear body cameras, the subcommittee recommended equipping all patrol officers with body cameras and requiring them to be activated in certain situations when officers interact with the public, such as during enforcement and investigative contacts.
After the subcommittee released its recommendations, Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order directing state-managed law enforcement to review and update their use of force policies. It also requires officers to take “reasonable action” to prevent another officer from using excessive force.
State law enforcement agencies would include the Department of Natural Resources Public Safety and Resource Protection Division, the Wisconsin State Capitol Police and the Wisconsin State Patrol.
Evers unveiled proposals banning police chokeholds and no-knock warrants last June. His nine-bill package did not pass into law despite Evers’ executive action in August, when he called the Legislature into a Special Session to address issues in policing following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Task force members were unable to come to a consensus on a statewide definition of “excessive force” Tuesday.
Still, the subcommittee issued a first set of recommendations that officers be held criminally liable if they fail to intervene when a colleague is using excessive force and plan to hold another meeting to determine a definition of “excessive force.”
Steineke and Stubbs appeared together in a video to endorse the subcommittee’s recommendations. Steineke said he was proud of their bipartisanship and expressed confidence they will make a difference in the lives of people of color across Wisconsin.
“We had many tough conversations over the past seven months, but I am proud we took the time to give these issues adequate consideration,” Stubbs added. “Today we celebrate the progress of the task force, but tomorrow we begin the hard work of making these recommendations a reality.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, thanked Stubbs and Steineke for leading the task force and said he “[looks] forward to seeing those bills introduced for consideration by the legislature.”
“These certainly are not easy issues to discuss, but this subcommittee brought together community members and law enforcement to lay the groundwork for bipartisan legislation,” Vos said.