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Dane County police agencies: Use-of-force tactics were already in line with reformers' demands
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DANE COUNTY | LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES

Dane County police agencies: Use-of-force tactics were already in line with reformers' demands

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Of the 17 of 23 law enforcement agencies in Dane County that responded to a request for any changes to their use-of-force practices since George Floyd’s death, many said they’d added or tweaked policy language, engaged in more training and obtained state-sanctioned certification to come into compliance with a June 2020 presidential executive order on “safe policing for safe communities.”

In general, though, efforts were aimed at codifying things officers were already doing — or had long been prohibited from doing.

Madison has seen efforts from City Council members to ban tear gas and chokeholds, and has created a civilian group to oversee the police department. But so far, there have been few substantive changes to use-of-force practices. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office prohibited neck restraints and chokeholds, although neither had been part of deputies’ training or practice before.

Oregon’s police department and others added language to its polices that emphasizes the use of de-escalation and bans chokeholds unless someone is in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured. It and the Sun Prairie Police Department were among those that said they had long ago implemented every or almost every aspect of the 8 Can’t Wait list of police reforms pushed by Black Lives Matter and other police-reform groups.

In the town of Madison, the police department’s use-of-force policy was updated to include more definitions of police-related terms and tactics and to better outline procedures, and language was added to say “officers hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life, dignity, and liberty of all persons.”

UW-Madison Police made changes to its use-of-force policy to include language on the importance of de-escalation and using the least amount of force possible, but “all of the changes made reflected existing practices, training and procedures,” spokesperson Marc Lovicott said, they just hadn’t been written down.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in June proposed a package of bills that, among other things, would have established statewide use-of-force standards and prohibited discipline of law enforcement officers for reporting violations of use-of-force policy.

But Republicans, who control the Legislature, declined to take them up during a special legislative session Evers called and instead Assembly Speaker Robin Vos created a bipartisan task force on racial disparities to propose legislation.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved measures that don’t address use-of-force tactics and policies but would create a new grant program for police, require police to post use-of-force policies online and require the state Justice Department to gather more data on use-of-force incidents and produce an annual report.

The bills also would require police to maintain and share personnel files during the hiring process and require Milwaukee and Madison’s police and firefighter oversight commissions to accept a member nominee from police and firefighter unions.

More legislation, including a ban on chokeholds, is expected later this year.


Special Report: Tony Robinson police shooting anniversary

It's been one year since the March 6, 2015, fatal shooting of Tony Robinson, a black teenager who was unarmed, by a white Madison police officer in a Williamson Street apartment house.

The shooting sent shockwaves through Madison, spurring weeks of protests, drawing national attention to the city and highlighting longstanding racial disparities in Dane County.

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Quotes from city and community leaders and the family of Tony Robinson on the anniversary of his death.

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