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Evers OKs use-of-force bill, vetoes plan to defund cities

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers signed a Republican-authored bill on Friday that established a uniform use-of-force policy for police across Wisconsin, but he killed another GOP-backed measure that would have cut state aid to local governments that reduce police budgets.

Under the use-of-force bill, police can use force based on a situation’s circumstances and whether a suspect is fleeing or resisting arrest. Deadly force is a last resort. The bill initially included language that would have made an officer who doesn’t intervene when another officer is using force illegally but Assembly Republicans removed that provision in June at the request of the Milwaukee police union.

Evers vetoed a different GOP-authored bill that would have cut state aid to local governments that reduce their police budgets. The money would be reallocated to counties and municipalities that don’t cut funding for police.

Evers said in his veto message that the bill would have imposed “onerous restrictions” on local governments’ ability to set their budgets.

“Local governments and local elected officials are well-positioned to make informed decisions about what is best for their communities and how to meet the needs of the people they serve and represent,” the governor wrote.

Evers signed bills earlier this year banning police chokeholds except in life-or-death situations, requiring reporting of use-of-force incidents and posting use-of-force policies online. The bills come as government leaders grapple with how to reform police procedures in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020.

The bill’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Van Wanggaard, a former police officer, predicted that the veto would lead to cities defunding their police departments, resulting in longer response times and “skyrocketing crime.”

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