Gov. Evers, Lt. Gov. Barnes call for action on police reform legislation

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– Wisconsin Gov.  Tony Evers and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes are calling for a number of reforms in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Not only are they urging the legislature to act on changes to law enforcement, but health and education needs.

Both the governor and lieutenant governor are throwing their support behind Assembly Bill 1012. It would require officers to first use de-escalation tactics, use the least amount of force as possible or use deadly force as a last resort. Officers must take reasonable action to stop or prevent unreasonable use of force by colleagues. And, they couldn’t be disciplined for reporting a violation.

“For the legislature to pass this bill that would help us out, but it would be a starter,” said Barnes.

But it failed to pass before the end of the floor period in April. The governor is confident that it could gain momentum in the wake of protests and calls for action nationwide.

While not specifically advocating for this type of legislation, even former Governor Scott Walker is getting on board. On Twitter, Walker said he would pick reforming over defunding the police.

“[You have] a very staunch conservative who is allied completely with police unions talking about the need to have police reform,” said Barnes.

Gov. Evers believes many departments have similar, but maybe not as rigorous policies already.

“We’re hopeful that we can actually show some good faith to the people of Wisconsin that are concerned about this to get something done,” Evers said.

They’re also considering other reforms to address systemic racism– like health disparities in black Wisconsinites. That would include expanding Medicaid, which was not included in the state’s latest budget because it was rejected by republican legislators.

“Which would have created lots of opportunities for us to directly impact and provide resources to people that have disproportionate outcomes,” Evers said.

The governor also proposed $5 million for early childhood education grants to support the state’s five largest urban districts. That includes Green Bay Area Public School District, Madison Metropolitan School District, Milwaukee Public Schools, Kenosha Unified School District, and Racine Unified School District.

“The program would provide support the state’s five largest urban districts, to start up a new or expand an existing program offering high-quality early childhood education to children in the district, as a way to ensure all children have a successful start to school,” according to the governor and Department of Public Instruction’s budget proposal.

But this proposal was not included in the final budget.

“We need to have high-quality early childhood education programs. We need to have high-quality child care opportunities,” Evers said.

Gov. Evers said he’s willing to work with Republicans to work on these issues to help all Wisconsinites, especially people of color. News 8 Now contacted both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s office for comment. We have not heard back yet.