‘Watershed Moment’ Requires GOP to Act on Police Reform Bill, Evers Says
Gov. Tony Evers calls on lawmakers to act on police reform legislation in the wake of George Floyd's death by Minneapolis police officers. Floyd's photo is included in a memorial near the Capitol steps. (Photo © Lola Abu-Shawareb)

Police reform bill reintroduced in wake of George Floyd’s death. 

In making a plea to Republican lawmakers Thursday to reconvene the Legislature and debate a bill that addresses use of force standards in police departments, Gov. Tony Evers described this time as a “watershed moment for our nation” that requires everyone to come together to fight racism.

“I know the election is coming up. I know that is very important to a lot of us,” said Evers in reference to the November election and the fact many lawmakers are focused on re-election campaigns. “But this is a watershed moment and there are probably many things we can accomplish that will make life better for the people of Wisconsin that suffer because of systemic racism.”

On Tuesday, Evers first urged lawmakers to reconvene to take up Assembly Bill 1012. The bill, which has no Republican cosponsors, would reform police policies across Wisconsin by making the preservation of life a priority while minimizing the use of force. 

The bill was introduced late last session but was never taken up for debate by the GOP-controlled Legislature. 

“Our ability as state, local and national leaders to respond quickly and forcefully, not against the protesters, but by actually accomplishing some things that alleviate this systemic curse on our nation and in our state, the sooner people will stop protesting and join us in correcting the system,” Evers told reporters in a press call Thursday.

Evers said systemic changes are needed to address the disease of racism, adding “we have seen its disproportionate effect on people of color.”

Evers pointed out that while African Americans make up 6 percent of Wisconsin’s population, they account for 19 percent of total COVID-19 cases and 35 percent of virus-related deaths.

Similarly, Hispanics represent 7 percent of the state’s population, but 34 percent of the total cases and 10 percent of the COVID-related deaths.

“These statistics represent real people whose lives have been affected by inequities that cause them to suffer from higher rates of heart disease and asthma,” said state Department of Health Services Sec. Andrea Palm. “These same inequities cause them to suffer in higher rates to COVID-19.”

Statewide on Thursday there were 492 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases just short of 20,000.

The 492 positive tests made up 4.1 percent of the 12,148 total tests administered and reported for Thursday’s update. That is a higher percentage than the four previous days. There were 10 new deaths reported which brings Wisconsin’s toll to 626.

“We have an opportunity now to fix some wrongs that have been long-standing for decades. The people have Wisconsin have a great interest in having us do that,” Evers said. “We have a bill out there now that will deal with one small issue but an important issue, use of force. Let’s get together and see if we can accomplish something.”