Milwaukee Bucks players say it’s “unacceptable” for Wisconsin lawmakers to meet for a few seconds on Monday instead of debating legislation aimed at overhauling police practices and policy.
“It’s just so unacceptable,” Bucks center Brook Lopez told reporters Saturday. “The policy we’re talking about, it’s so important, you know, police reform, criminal justice reform … they’re such important steps to start with to keep that momentum going.”
The Bucks have taken steps this week to call attention to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Sunday by sitting out a playoff game this week and calling on state lawmakers to take action quickly.
Blake, a Black Kenosha man, was shot seven times in the back by a city police officer after Blake was trying to get into a vehicle after two officers deployed Tasers in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Blake.
The Bucks say the incident shows an urgent need for police-related legislation.
“We’ve heard in the past that they just gavel in and gavel out without really discussing anything or trying to really make change,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton told reporters Saturday about the team’s decision to speak out last week.
“On our end, we want to speak to that. We wanted to make sure that they listen to us and they really talk about this police reform bill that needs to be passed through the Senate,” he said.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican from Juneau, did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Saturday.
Fitzgerald on Friday said he wouldn’t entirely shut down the session the Democratic governor called, but suggested senators may take months to act.
The bills Evers wants would ban police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants and make it harder for overly aggressive officers to move from one job to another.
Fitzgerald, who also is running for Congress, said the Senate would ultimately consider nine bills Evers proposed that would overhaul police practices and a package of legislation released by Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine aimed at police oversight.
Wanggaard’s proposals would cut state aid to communities that reduce their police budgets and require police shootings to be analyzed in a way similar to how the National Transportation Safety Board conducts extensive investigations of plane crashes.
There’s no time requirement for the length of a special session. Lawmakers are required to gavel into a special session by the governor but are not required to act.
Fitzgerald suggested it would take months for lawmakers to work on new legislation, instead of the immediate action Evers called for.
Lopez said the team has been meeting with Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Attorney General Josh Kaul — all Democrats — and were surprised to learn Republican lawmakers previously have quickly opened and closed previous special sessions called by Evers.
“What we’ve learned is they’ve had special sessions in the past where they’ll show up, literally gavel in, be there for a few seconds then it’s a wrap, that’s done, leading policy to go nowhere,” Lopez said.
“We need these things in place before we can keep going on to other things. It’s such, again, a huge responsibility and accountability and it’s these people’s jobs to do that,” he said.
“So, we have to use our platform, people have to continue to speak out in Wisconsin, around the country, around the world, protest, wear shirts, take a knee, do what they can to keep the noise going, keep their voice strong and proud and put the pressure on these kinds of people to do the right thing and get things done so the momentum continues to move in a positive way,” Lopez said. “Take action. We just need action, action, action at this point.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Monday it’s important to wait for more information about the incident and said he’s forming a task force focusing on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety and police policies and standards.
Such task forces typically take months to develop legislation.
“This is not a time for political posturing or to suggest defunding law enforcement. When a community is hurting, the most important thing that we can do is to listen,” Vos said in statement. “We must find a path forward as a society that brings everyone together.”
Fitzgerald also said Friday he wants a bill that would create more penalties for violence against police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.
“The riots in Kenosha and Madison this week further demonstrated that first responders are performing their public service duties at great risk to their personal safety,” he said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach of West Point said Friday he was frustrated that senators would not act immediately, but saw a sliver lining because Fitzgerald will not close out the special session entirely.
“I think there’s hope for it,” Erpenbach said.
You can find out who your legislators are and how to contact them here.