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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

I entered the New Year with a renewed sense of optimism. Like a plan to lose weight, I began to mentally map out what I could do better. I reviewed what I needed to shed, but more importantly what was standing in the way of success. And just like a big piece of chocolate cake, there it was staring me in the face…Republican games and political posturing.

This is the only way I can summarize the recent slate of bills proposed by Wisconsin Republicans to deal with law enforcement issues from staffing to questionable public interaction. Almost as if it’s a game, my colleagues on the right, offer up divisive and band-aidesque solutions to real state and policing problems.

Scripted for the upcoming 2022 election season, some Republican legislators started the dog and pony show of tough on crime, support for law enforcement and concern about community policing. However, if any of this were even remotely true it could have been done nearly three years ago. Gov. Tony Evers placed a priority on additional funding for law enforcement staffing and funding of supplemental programs. Republicans rejected the proposals.

Looking to siphon money from federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for their package of bills, these legislators are missing the point. Long before the deadly health pandemic and social unrest of the last two years, we have implored them to seriously address these issues. Interested in scoring political points, far too many Wisconsin State GOP legislators were unwilling to have the substantive discussions and decisions. Yet, this is a game we can’t afford to lose. The costs are deadly.

Proposals that teach children how to interact with police would have done nothing for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by a Cleveland, Ohio officer within 1.6 seconds of interacting with him. Tamir was never given the opportunity to exhibit “mutual cooperation and respect.” Their support of “no knock warrants” creates opportunities for another Breonna Taylor style killing.

Few would argue against increasing staffing, securing more programming and facilitating improved relationships between officers and the community. However, the package of bills rings hollow considering how Republicans, both locally and nationally, have ignored the peril faced by law enforcement during the U.S. Capitol riot in 2021. While an officer was killed during the insurrection, inspired by the leader of the Republican Party, and four other officers involved have committed suicide, GOP legislators have fallen silent. You can’t be a part of the biggest lie ever told (election was stolen from Donald Trump), watch police officers die in the aftermath of your lies, and then try to champion police causes.

Republicans have ceded their authority to wave the “Back the Blue” banner. They have used law enforcement as a pawn in elections and treated public safety has a game. It seems 2022 will be no different.

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