MILWAUKEE — A sweeping police reform bill is on its way to the Senate after being passed by the House late Wednesday night.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act aims to ban chokeholds, no-knock search warrants, alter qualified immunity among other things, but it’s drawing concerns from police associations.
“There are things that can be done to strengthen policing…but there are a number of provisions in here that are deeply concerning,” said Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association Jim Palmer.
Palmer says removing an officer’s qualified immunity–which protects them from civil suits unless they violate established constitutional rights–is among their greatest concerns.
“We require officers to exercise discretion under extraordinary life or death circumstances,” he told WTMJ. “To eliminate qualified immunity, it basically says an officer can go to prison for an unintentional act that unknowingly broke a right that a court had never determined was a right.”
The bill has the support of Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin.
“[Qualified immunity] prevents so many from recovering damages when a police officer violates their constitutional rights,” Baldwin told 101.7 The Truth’s MKE in the Morning. “The reforms that were included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act have been proposals for a long, long time, and were put together because they’re long overdue for advancing.”
Palmer notes that there are provisions in the bill that can improve policing, but not if included in the bill as a whole.
“There’s a lot of value in enhancing the efforts to collect law enforcement data,” he said. “We don’t have more timely data relative to crime and law enforcement officer’s use of force, and I think that’s a severe problem.”
He says de-escalation training and crisis intervention is also a positive, though the House’s bill does not include additional funding for those measures.
Listen to the complete interview with Jim Palmer in the player above.