A new statewide Wisconsin law will now require law enforcement officers to stop other officers from using excessive force. TMJ4 reported that this law has been in effect in the city of Milwaukee since 2013, but the data on its effectiveness is “inconclusive.”
The Wisconsin law, also called a “duty to intervene law,” appears to be part of the Policy Movement’s push to have similar laws in all 50 states. Policy Movement linked the laws to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
Policy Movement is an organization that is “tracking the progress of the new civil rights movement.” According to its website, it provides “rigorous policy and data analysis of this transformative process.”
Policy Movement reported that 7 states wrote similar “duty to intervene laws” in 2020 and 16 states enacted them in 2021.
2021 Wisconsin Act 75 went into effect on January 1, which reads that “law enforcement officers shall make every effort to preserve and protect human life and the safety of all persons.” The act goes on to outline the ways in which officers are legally allowed to use force.
It reads, “A law enforcement officer is authorized to use force that is objectively reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances, including:
1. The severity of the alleged crime at issue.
2. Whether the suspect poses an imminent threat to the safety of law enforcement officers or others.
3. Whether the suspect is actively resisting or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”
The act explains that other law enforcement officers must evaluate the actions of other officers to determine if they fit the standards for use of force. If an officer witnessing an event believes that a law enforcement officer is utilizing excessive force, they are now legally required to intervene.
According to the law, “A law enforcement officer shall, without regard for chain of command, intervene to prevent or stop another law enforcement officer from using force that does not comply with the standards in the course of that law enforcement officer’s official duties.” The officer is legally bound to intervene in a situation if the use of force is excessive, as is outlined by the law, and if it is safe for the officer to do so.
An officer who fails to intervene or report an intervention could potentially face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
The law states that officers who witness the use of excessive force must “report the noncompliant use of force as soon as is practicable after the occurrence of the use of such force.” The penalty for an officer who fails to report the “noncompliant use of force” can be fined $1,000 or imprisoned for up to six months.
The law also includes whistleblower protections for officers who report uses of force or interventions.
Milwaukee Police Association President Andrew Wagner told TMJ4 that he believes the new law is a good thing for the state.
“I think having a standard policy throughout the state only helps to engage that community trust that we’re looking for,” he said.
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Hayley Feland is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun and The Wisconsin Daily Star | Star News Network. Follow Hayley on Twitter or like her Facebook page. Send news tips to [email protected].
Photo “Milwaukee Police Officers” by Milwaukee Police Department.