BY AMY REID
MADISON, Wis. — State lawmakers took no action in a special session on police reform on Monday, despite calls from Black lawmakers and community leaders asking for change.
Only a few people were there to see the Assembly gavel into the special session before recessing until Thursday, a move that took less than 30 seconds.
Majority leader Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukana, said the bills lawmakers would have looked at will be part of the discussion in the speaker’s task force on the issue.
“I think now more than ever is the time we need to start lowering the temperature of the state,” Steineke said. “We need to start bringing people together and try to find some common ground on solutions to lead us forward.”
Before the session started, community leaders and the state’s Black Legislative Caucus told reporters the time for listening is done, and now it’s time for action.
“The blame for Jacob Blake’s shooting does not fall at the hands of just this one officer,” said Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison. “Let me be clear: That day our community was failed by leaders’ inaction. Our leaders have long overlooked the systemic injustices in our policing system. They failed us.”
The bills Evers asked the legislature to take up would have banned no-knock warrants and chokeholds, and they would have created statewide use-of-force standards, among other things.
Disparities in the state go beyond criminal justice, and those speaking for change said failing to address that fails the state as a whole.
“When you leave people without resources,” said Brandi Grayson, the CEO of Urban Triage, “when you leave people without hope, when you leave people without opportunity, when you remind people daily that their lives don’t matter, when you remind them every single second that they are considered to be inferior, when you remind them they are less than, guess what you will get.”
Steineke said he hopes to tackle more than what these bills address when the task force puts together its suggestions, which he’s expecting them to have by the start of the next session in early January.
Steineke, who is white, said he wants to bring in Black leaders from the faith community, Boys and Girls Club branches and the legislature to be on the task force, but he wants to focus on having people from “all different walks of life” participate.