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Assembly to vote on Republican-authored police incentives

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin state Assembly was set to vote Tuesday on a package of Republican-authored bills designed to bolster police recruiting.

The measures come as officer applications have dwindled in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national debate over police brutality and racism.

Floyd, who was Black, died on Memorial Day in 2020 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. A Police Executive Research Forum survey conducted in June 2021, about a year after Floyd’s death, found an 18% increase in resignations and a 45% increase in retirements compared to the previous year.

The bills would create $5,000 signing bonuses for applicants and $2,000 retention bonuses for officers who stay on the job for a year. Officers who relocate to Wisconsin and stay on the job for three years would be eligible for annual bonuses capped at $10,000.

At least two technical colleges would have to establish part-time police academies to attract recruits already working other full-time jobs. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the state Department of Justice would have to create a marketing campaign to attract recruits.

Schools would have to teach students in grades 5-12 how to respect and cooperate with police and local governments would be prohibited from banning no-knock search warrants.

The legislation also would double the state reimbursement for annual officer recertification from $160 to $320 and reimburse small departments for equipment and training costs up to $10,000.

The funding for the package would come from federal COVID-19 pandemic relief dollars.

Democrats have assailed the legislation as an election year stunt.

The Assembly was set to vote on the bills Tuesday afternoon or evening. Approval would send the package to the Senate.

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