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Wisconsin Republican State Senator On Police Reform Proposals

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A man is shot several times in the back by police. Thousands take to the streets. Next come investigations and calls for reform. This is the now-familiar cycle sadly now playing out in Kenosha, Wis., after a police officer shot Jacob Blake multiple times on August 23. Wisconsin governor, Democrat Tony Evers, called for a special legislative session to get lawmakers working on a package of reforms that he put forth earlier this summer. That special session was today. Republicans did not show up. Van Wanggaard is a Republican state senator for Wisconsin, also a former police officer. And he joins us now.

Welcome, sir.

VAN WANGGAARD: Well, thank you for the invite. I appreciate it.

KELLY: I mean, the bottom line here is that this was a session - the governor wants to study these proposals. These are proposals, as I understand it, that he put out in mid-June, which means y'all have had two months to study them. What more do you need? Why not come into session and vote up or down, have a debate about them?

WANGGAARD: Most of these bills have not just came out of the air in the last two months. We've been working on several of the bills that we're presenting. One is, a matter of fact, since 2017 that has just gotten to fruition with its eighth draft that deals with use-of-force responses.

KELLY: And - but let me just cut in 'cause I do want to get to some of the reforms I know you would like to see unfold here. But to those who say, look; there should be some urgency here. This has been on the table - these reforms that the governor wants you to consider - for a couple of months. To those who say Republicans are not showing up or trying to slow-walk this, you say what?

WANGGAARD: I say that's not true because we've had both sides of the aisle involved in these pieces of legislation. Sometimes you don't get a piece of legislation through in two days or two weeks or two months. Sometimes it takes years.

KELLY: But just again, the Democrats are there on the floor. They showed up. They're ready to debate. Why not show up and do the same?

WANGGAARD: Well, because most of the bills that they've brought forward are bills that we've already been working on to begin with and we've made adjustments to already. But they're not - they haven't passed through the process yet and gone to all the stakeholders. The bills I've brought forward that have been our B numbers now that have been released - those will be circulated for co-sponsorships probably in this next week.

KELLY: Given that you've introduced your own package, you do think police reform is necessary. Can you give me your top thing or two that you would like to see change?

WANGGAARD: I would like to see it where you have a good process in each one of our applications of the law. It should be that when you're applying the law equally and justly, you're going to get the outcome that should be coming out of it, like our use-of-force policies - getting those policies out in front, allowing the community to know exactly what they are and what happens when officers go through certain types of conflicts.

I mean, if people understand better, you know, what those officers are going through and what's happening - I mean, if you look at a 20-second video that started this thing with the Kenosha incident, you don't see that - all the stuff that happened beforehand with the resisting and the fight that went on. And so we need to make sure we get all of the facts. All the facts aren't even out yet 'cause the...

KELLY: They're - yeah. I will emphasize that there are so many facts...

WANGGAARD: Yeah.

KELLY: ...We don't know about this specific incident.

WANGGAARD: But we need to make sure before we go out talking about stuff that we are really putting accurate facts out. Yeah, it sounds bad when somebody gets shot in the back seven times. Absolutely.

KELLY: Yeah.

WANGGAARD: But these circumstances for what he did - we'll see.

KELLY: Before I let you go, President Trump is scheduled to visit Kenosha. He says he's going to meet with law enforcement. The mayor of Kenosha and the governor have asked him not to come. Should he?

WANGGAARD: Well, he's in a position - if he doesn't come, they're going to be saying he should have come. And if he does come, they're going to say, geez, what are you coming for? I am of the opinion that I am impressed that he would make the choice to come. I think he should.

KELLY: You don't worry that it will further inflame an already...

WANGGAARD: No.

KELLY: ...Super-difficult situation.

WANGGAARD: No. We have a little under 2,000 troops and law enforcement officers in Kenosha, so I don't think that's going to be an issue at this point - him just coming. If you're going to talk intelligently about something that's happened someplace, you need to go there and see what it is so that you can look at the physical layout and maybe talk to some of those people that were involved because then you get a different perspective.

KELLY: All right. We will leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.

WANGGAARD: You're very welcome. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I appreciate it.

KELLY: That is Wisconsin state senator, Republican Van Wanggaard. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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