Gov. Tony Evers on Friday vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have penalized local governments that attempt to defund local police departments.
The Democratic governor also signed into law six bills, including a measure to establish use-of-force standards for police officers and require law enforcement to report noncompliant uses of force.
The bill vetoed Friday would have mandated that any municipality that decreases the number of police officers, firefighters or medical first responders would receive a cut in state aid equal to the amount of compensation cut. Reductions in aid would be redistributed to municipalities that do not cut the number of officers. Police departments with fewer than 30 officers would be exempt.
In a veto message for the bill, Evers said the proposal would impose “onerous restrictions” on the ability for local governments to set their budgets.
“Rather than help with the fiscal constraints that local governments are experiencing, this bill seeks to micromanage local decision-making,” Evers wrote. “Local governments and local elected officials are well-positioned to make informed decisions about what is best for their communities and how to meet the needs of the people they serve and represent.”
The bill was drafted by conservatives to prevent communities from reducing the size of police departments, a proposal considered by some to direct more funding to other social services that may not require a law enforcement intervention.
Republican supporters say the bill would keep cities from indiscriminately cutting police and would keep communities safe, while Democratic lawmakers have blasted the proposal as an attempt by the state to interfere with local decision-making.
“There’s no other way to spin this,” bill co-author Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said in a statement. “At a time when crime is running rampant in our state, Governor Evers wants to defund the police. Otherwise, he would have signed the bill.”
The use-of-force bill signed Friday creates a statewide policy allowing officers to use force based on a situation’s circumstances, whether a suspect is threatening officers or others and whether the suspect is resisting or fleeing. Police would be able to use deadly force only as a last resort. The measure goes into effect on Jan. 1.
“This is another step forward in creating a more equitable, just, and safer Wisconsin for every community and to ensure accountability and transparency in our law enforcement systems,” Evers said in a statement. “That said, our work is far from done and we must continue to strive towards meaningful change to address the systemic injustice that plagues our state and country.”
Other bills signed by Evers Friday include those that increase penalties for crimes committed against elderly individuals; require the state Department of Natural Resources to create a general permit for wetland, stream and flood plain restoration projects; reduce the amount of time entities have to correct environmental compliance audit violations; and initiate updates to the state’s electronic waste recycling program.