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Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes announced a package of legislation to increase accountability and transparency in policing in Wisconsin.
The announcement came on Juneteenth, the June 19 annual celebration to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. This year Juneteenth was celebrate in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and calls of Wisconsinites and people across the country for justice and equity for black Americans.
“Our country promises the opportunity of justice and equity, and it’s time for us to deliver on that promise,” said Gov. Evers. “We know we don’t have all of the answers — no one does. This legislation is a first step toward dismantling the systems we’ve created, but it can only be a first step. Racism and racial disparities can’t be solved with any single bill or package of bills, or person — it’s on all of us, together. We must meet this movement with our empathy and our compassion, but most of all we must meet it with action.”
Wisconsin is consistently ranked one of the worst states in the country for racial disparities, from infant mortality to child poverty, educational attainment to employment, and homeownership to incarceration. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the disparities in health outcomes: Black Wisconsinites comprise 6.7 percent of the state’s population but account for nearly a quarter of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 deaths.“We continue to lose far too many black lives, be it from inequities in criminal justice and policing, in health care, or in economic well-being,” said Lt. Gov. Barnes. “The social and economic consequences of these deep-seated inequities reach every community in our state and eliminating them will require action at every level of government. Passing these bills is one piece of how we move closer to accountability, equity, and justice for all.”
Evers and Barnes called for bipartisanship in addressing racism and increasing law enforcement accountability in a letter to the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus.
“Calling another special session where legislative leaders come in and gavel in and gavel out risks us losing this incredible moment in history where we can and should be able to work together to get something accomplished,” Evers and Barnes said. “We should not need a special session when people across our state are demanding we take action.”
The package of proposed legislation includes: