Milwaukee Orders Police To Develop An ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Policy
Many people held "I can't breathe" signs at the Justice for George rally May 30 in Madison. (Photo © Lola Abu)

Preserving life should be a higher priority when force is required.

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday urged the state Legislature to take up a bill that would reform police policies across Wisconsin by making the preservation of life a priority while minimizing the use of force. 

The governor released a video statement offering compassion, support, and action to the Black community in the wake of last week’s Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. In his video address, he urged local government leaders to demand change in racist policies that further racism in Wisconsin and across the nation. 

“This legislation is an important first step,” Evers said, “but we know the solution to racism isn’t in one bill or one person. I know I don’t have all the answers — no one does. This is on all of us, together.”

Assembly Bill 1012, which has no Republican co-sponsors, was introduced late in the legislative session and did not pass before the Assembly ended its work in late February and the Senate did so in March. The Legislature can call itself back into extraordinary session if it wishes to take up the bill for consideration.

In his address, Evers calls for the need for “systemic change” to better address racism in the state and elsewhere. Part of doing so, he said, involves society being willing to acknowledge racist actions. 

“We must be willing to face (racism), with clear eyes and open hearts, recognizing that folks who look like me have been part of creating, exacerbating, and benefiting from the systems that we must now turn to dismantle,” Evers said.

Evers’ message comes as Black leaders, social justice activists and others across the country call for an end to racist actions and policies. Floyd’s death is the latest in a string of police killings of African Americans in which undue force was used.

Floyd died on May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derik Chauvin placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, the last three minutes of which Floyd appeared lifeless. Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He and three other officers present at the scene were fired. 

On Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walkz and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights filed a civil rights probe against the Minneapolis Police Department over Floyd’s death, according to The Associated Press

Floyd’s death has prompted protests across Wisconsin and the country. Some protests have been peaceful, but others, such as those in Milwaukee and Madison, have involved arrests and looting of buildings. Curfews have been instituted in many cities across southern Wisconsin, and in Green Bay. 

Peaceful protests have happened in other locations, such as in Appleton and Eau Claire, where separate events in each city attracted about 1,000 participants each.