Evers Calls Special Session on Police Reform, Deploys National Guard to Kenosha



By Jessica VanEgeren

August 24, 2020

Father of shooting victim, Jacob Blake, reports he is out of surgery for the gunshot wounds.

Less than 24 hours after a 29-year-old father was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer, Gov. Tony Evers has called a special session of the Legislature to discuss a package of police reform bills and has deployed the state National Guard to Kenosha as demonstrations again ramp up to protest police violence against Black men and women. 

“This is not the time for politics. I am urging Republican leadership to rise to this important movement in history to put people before politics and to put the lives of Black Wisconsinites above politics and to give this special session an urgent and productive effort that this moment demands and the people of Wisconsin deserve,” Evers said Monday in a Capitol statement delivered along with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. 

The officer who shot Jacob Blake has been placed on administrative leave and the state Department of Criminal Justice is investigating the shooting.  Blake is in serious condition at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting he is out of surgery

“This was not an accident. This was not bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta being taken out on a member of our community,” said Barnes, the first African American to serve as lieutenant governor. 

On June 19, Evers and Barnes released a nine-bill package aimed at reforming police transparency and accountability in response to ongoing protests over George Floyd’s death. Included in the package are bills that would ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock search warrants by the police, two practices that have led to the deaths of unarmed Black men and women, including Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville officers in March while sleeping in her bed. 

Evers issued a statement Sunday evening, saying it was time for action. He also took a significantly different tone from previous governors and Republican lawmakers by expressing support for the victim and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country,” said Evers. “We stand with all those who have and continue to demand justice, equity, and accountability for Black lives in our country …. and we stand against excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging with Black Wisconsinites.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, responded by announcing the creation of a task force focusing on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies standards.

“This is not a time for political posturing or to suggest defunding law enforcement,” said Vos in a statement. 

None of the nine bills in the police reform package call for defunding the police. 

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, a 30-year veteran of the Racine police force, called Evers’ statement “irresponsible and inflammatory.” 

“He jumped to conclusions without first having the facts,” said Wanggaard in a statement.”At a time when stereotyping situations is especially risky, Evers stereotyped every police interaction with people of color, harming both.” 

According to the DOJ, the shooting occurred when Kenosha police officers responded to a reported domestic incident in the 2800 block of 40th Street. Witnesses have told the media Blake was attempting to break up a verbal fight between two women. 

Blake had a bench warrant out for his arrest, but it is not yet clear what escalated the situation between Blake and the officers. A video being shared on social media shows officers pointing a gun at Blake’s back as he walks to his vehicle with his children inside. 

“Jacob Blake was actually trying to de-escalate a situation in his community. But the responding officer didn’t feel the need to do the same. Now we all know Jacob Blake’s name,” Barnes said. 

Evers and Barnes acknowledged the package of reform bills will not dissolve systemic racism, with Evers saying passage of the bills “can only be the first step.”

“We know we cannot remedy the systemic racism built into all of our systems with just this package of bills, but that does not mean we should stand still,” Barnes said. “For over two months, our legislative leaders have ignored the calls for change from people in every part of our state, and now another Black man is fighting for his life due to the actions of law enforcement. The people of our state are done waiting for the Legislature to act, and so are we.” 

As of Monday, the Legislature has not met to consider legislation for 133 days.




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