Callahan bills addressing police officer recruitment, retention included in GOP-backed legislation package
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
MADISON – Two bills authored by State Representative Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) were included in a legislation package introduced by Republican lawmakers that aims to “assist with officer recruitment and retention,” a release from Callahan’s office said.
The legislation package was introduced on Tuesday, Jan. 4. Callahan was joined by State Rep. Snyder (R-Schofield), Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks, Everest Metro Chief Clayton Schulz, and Wausau Deputy Police Chief Matt Barnes at a press conference at the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office as part of the unveiling of the bills.
Funding for the legislation package would come from federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. Legislative Republicans said the package would cost roughly $25 million.
In the release, Callahan said the bills are “aimed at supporting law enforcement departments across Wisconsin.”
“Few careers are under such a microscope as the police,” Callahan stated. “Those who are there to protect us and guard us from danger often end up being persecuted and vilified for the career they have chosen.”
Callahan said Wisconsin has “has the lowest number of law enforcement officers working in at least a decade – only 13,576 officers statewide.”
“Resignations and retirements have increased and new applicants to the force have decreased,” he stated. “We have to do something to protect our communities and loved ones, and we need to do it now.”
If signed into law, the first of Callahan’s two bills would “reimburse law enforcement academy costs for all officers, not just those sponsored by an agency; ensure this reimbursement is sufficient to cover the entire cost; and double state reimbursement for annual re-certification costs,” according to the release.
The second piece of legislation would “provide free fishing and deer hunting licenses to law enforcement officers and waive state park camping and admission fees on Memorial Day weekend.”
“The officer recruitment and retention crises doesn’t differentiate between small or large communities,” Callahan stated. “It affects the entire state. I am honored to help bring forward this much needed legislation alongside my Republican colleagues and ensure that supporting and investing in our law enforcement is a top priority in the Legislature.”
Other bills included in package
The bills backed by GOP lawmakers cover an array of law enforcement-related matters.
One piece of legislation would prohibit municipalities and law enforcement agencies from banning no-knock warrants. No-knock warrants “(authorize) police officers to enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose prior to entering the premises,” according to Cornell Law School.
Governor Tony Evers has previously called for the end of no-knock warrants.
Another bill would require the Department of Public Instruction to craft a model curriculum that could be adopted by school boards. Under the curriculum, students in grades 5 through 12 would be taught “how to interact with law enforcement with mutual cooperation and respect.”
Bills aiming to provide funding for mandatory training, recruitment efforts, bonuses for newly-hired officers, and the implementation of part-time police academies for at least two technical colleges were also part of the legislation package.