The new bill package offers an alternative to mild reforms proposed by the bipartisan racial disparities task force.
After activists spoke out last week against the “insulting” package of police reform bills that have come out of the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities, Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) introduced the “Enough is Enough” package of 12 bills that align with what the activists say would bring real change to the national scourge of police violence against people of color.
Bowen said his intention with the package was not to undo what the task force had done but to add onto it.
“We’re building on what [the task force] has already done,” he said. “We want to take the ball farther.”
Bowen introduced the package on Thursday with more than two dozen activists from The Peoples Revolution, which has protested every day since the murder of George Floyd one year ago for police reform, and Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) standing and speaking in support.
BLOC executive director Angela Lang had called out the task force over its recommendations, saying “Your scraps, your crumbs, are insulting.” She had a very different message on Bowen’s package: “that these bills are a step in the right direction.”
“We understand that it took years and generations to get to this point,” Lang said. “We understand that white supremacy is so pervasive that people don’t always realize what it’s actually manifesting so it’s going to take longer to undo all of that harm. But today is a step in the right direction.”
The Bowen package includes measures to limit the power of police unions and police and fire commissions to override a police chief’s decision to punish or fire an officer for misconduct, reduce conflict-of-interest in officer-involved death investigations, and set requirements for use-of-force policies. The basis of all use-of-force policies would be the principle that “the primary duty of all law enforcement is to preserve the life of all individuals, that deadly force is only to be used as a last resort, and that officers utilize skills and tactics to avoid the likelihood of force becoming necessary” and more.
“This is what the people are asking for,” said Kamila Ahmed of Milwaukee, who was gaveled down by Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) when she attempted to testify before the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety last week about the inadequacy she sees in the task force recommendations.
Ahmed read The Peoples Revolution’s demands to the committee and was cut off when she reached number eight: to mandate de-escalation as the default for police and provide rigorous, regulated regimented training.
In addition to giving Ahmed the floor, Bowen introduced Cecil Lacy, brother of Ernest Lacy, who was killed by Milwaukee police officers almost 40 years ago in a case that also garnered national attention for the community outrage it sparked.
“We are suffering and we are dying at an alarming rate,” Lacy said. “And the first thing they want to do is blame the community for the community’s problem.”
Last year after the murder of George Floyd, the Lacy family spoke out about the parallels between Floyd’s murder and Ernest’s.
“[Ernest] just wanted to go home like so many other Black and brown people that are murdered and killed and beaten,” Lacy said. “And here we are, again, 39 years later. I’m standing here talking and pleading and asking and begging: how much more?”
Bowen was joined by state Assembly Reps. Francesca Hong (D-Madison), Samba Baldeh (D-Madison), Supreme Moore Omokunde (D-Milwaukee), and Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee). Bowen said he hopes that after a year of Black and brown communities organizing and speaking out, more representatives and their constituents across the state will be ready to listen.
“I understand that their experience with law enforcement and their community is different than Black and brown communities’,” Bowen said. “There are communities around our state that are used to having service from their police departments. And there are many constituents that I have, many constituents and citizens across our state, where they’re not getting the same service deliberately. They’re actually getting, instead of being served, they’re being harmed.”