Wisconsin Senate passes first police reform bills

state capitol dome

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate passed the Legislature’s first bills Tuesday addressing police reform since George Floyd’s death.

The Senate approved measures that would create a new grant program for police, require police to post use-of-force policies online and require the state Justice Department to gather more data on use-of-force incidents and produce an annual report. The bills also would require police to maintain and share personnel files during the hiring process and require Milwaukee and Madison’s police and firefighter oversight commissions to accept a member nominee from police and firefighter unions.

The proposals go next to the state Assembly.

The bills don’t address use-of-force tactics and policies. The legislation’s chief authors, Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard and Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor, say the proposals are a start toward accountability and more bills are coming, including a ban on chokeholds.

The grant program bill initially allocated $600,000 for cities of at least 60,000 people, but the chamber amended it to remove the dollar amount and make cities of at least 30,000 eligible. Wannggaard said the Legislature’s finance committee would pencil in dollar amounts as it revises the 2021-2023 state budget.

Tuesday’s marked the first floor votes on police reform legislation since Floyd’s death in May 2020. Floyd died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin is white. Floyd was Black. His death sparked protests nationwide and sparked a reckoning on racism.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called two legislative special sessions to address police reform last year. Each time Republican legislators refused to convene. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos instead created a racial disparities task force.