Thursday, September 3, 2015

Scott Walker's "We Acted" On Police Reform in Wisconsin

Since 'Governor' Walker is known for his courage and boldness in speaking out on topics in the national interest, he doesn't come right out and say a damn thing in his op-ed on some outlet I've never heard of, Hot Air, on policemen being shot in the US. He's going to unite America, thinks policemen should not be shot, and other controversial statements. (He does strongly imply, though not say, that Obama is the reason for anti-police rhetoric that leads to police deaths). 

But he does say one thing of interest: 

"In Wisconsin we acted to protect both police officers and citizens through a first-in-the-nation law that requires an independent investigation when a suspect dies in police custody."

Funny, it almost sounds like he's taking credit for that. "We acted." Surely he is among the "we"?

UPDATE: On September 13, Walker said "I’m proud to say I'm the only governor in America, the first one and I believe the only one today, who signed a law that says there needs to be an independent investigation any time there's a death of someone in police custody." Source

Yet according to Michael Bell, the man who advocated tirelessly for the bill (Assembly Bill 409/Senate Bill 348) after his handcuffed son was murdered by police officers in Kenosha, Walker initially wasn't interested in his idea that maybe the police force shouldn't be investigating itself when it mighta done something wrong. 

"In the beginning, I contacted the governor’s office, the attorney general and the U.S. attorney for Wisconsin. They didn’t even return my phone calls or letters," he wrote in 2014.

According to the AP, Walker's Attorney General (J.B. Van Hollen) was initially opposed to the bill when it was introduced in late 2013, calling it "unnecessary, unworkable and an expansion of government's already too burdensome bureaucracy".

What did Walker think? Well, it's really difficult to say. Reading the Journal Sentinel articles about the bill from that time period, Walker isn't quoted in any of them. He seems not to have spoken out or taken any kind of public position on the bill (because he's unintimidated). Even in articles about the bill being actually signed, by him, he isn't quoted. 

He certainly didn't speak out in favor of the bill. 

I can't find the voting records (which pisses me off), but it seems clear that the bill passed the Senate and the Assembly with pretty wide support. Yet I'm unable to find Walker going on record about it during the legislative process.

Walker signed 55 bills the day he signed Assembly Bill 409/Senate Bill 348, so the press release from that day contains only a paragraph on the police review bill. Searches for "police" in his press release page turn up only visits to law enforcement memorials and things of that nature. A search for "police" under his "Government Reform" category yields only a reference to the 2011 'Budget Repair Bill'. And his Facebook page doesn't have any posts between 4/7/14 and 5/2/14. 

So we can't say for certain whether he approved of or disapproved of it, although it's reasonable to wonder if his view is the same as that of his attorney general (who is elected separately). 

But he absolutely did not speak out in favor of it, unless it's somehow escaping my analysis. Walker is generally pretty far to the right on criminal justice issues, supporting bills that reduced parole for Wisconsin prisoners, not pardoning any Wisconsinites in five years as governor, and spending more money on corrections than on the UW system.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to me to scoff when Walker says that "we", including himself, established an independent police review agency. He didn't say a word or do a damn thing that I can find in its support. According to Bell, he wasn't interested at all, at least when Bell proposed the idea. 

Yet here he is, lapping up the credit for it. 

What a wonderful display of leadership. 

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