Gov. Evers calls racism 'a public health crisis,' pushes bill on use of deadly force by law enforcement

Gov. Tony Evers

MADISON -- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers calls racism a "public health crisis."

He took questions Thursday at his first media briefing since protests began in Milwaukee last week. He says the state must deal with what he calls "systemic racism."

"We must use this dark moment to begin to be an example for the rest of the nation," Gov. Evers said. "We must fix what we know is broken in our society. We must intentionally address and dismantle individual and systemic racism, discrimination and bias."

First, Gov. Evers is asking the state legislature to pass a bill. It would demand that police only use deadly force as a very last resort, that their duty is to save lives. It would also protect police whistleblowers.

Lena Taylor

That bill is sponsored by a number of Milwaukee lawmakers, including State Sen. Lena Taylor.

"The bill is dead. The bill is dead, because we are not in session," said Taylor.

While the Senate calendar is done for the year, they could still come back. Or, Gov. Evers could call a special session. In the past, Republican leaders have gaveled in, but did not vote at those sessions.

"We have the opportunity now to fix some wrongs that have been longstanding for decades. And the people of Wisconsin have a great interest in having us do that. We have a bill out there right now that will deal with one small issue, but an important issue about the use of force. And let’s get together and see if we can accomplish something,  said Gov. Evers.

He tells FOX6 News that he will set up an appointment with legislative leaders to talk about the situation. However, the Republican Judiciary Committee chairman,  State Sen. Van Wanggaard, criticized the bill, saying it seems like it was written by people who never served in law enforcement.

Evers also weighed in on the protests, as well as nighttime looting, that have hit Milwaukee this past week.

"It’s important that things are done lawfully. First Amendment rights are not to be trampled in this state, or any other state. And for those who do decide to do damage, they're damaging the First Amendment, and they are damaging the opportunity for thousands of people across Wisconsin to exercise that First Amendment right."

Gov. Evers also defended his decision to activate the Wisconsin National Guard, which is helping protect "critical infrastructure" like Milwaukee police stations.

Wisconsin National Guard at MPD