UPDATE 6/16: The snitch house bill is likely to pass the legislature today. Please join the action to demand governor Evers veto it.
UPDATE 6/11: Yesterday the Joint Finance Committee put $1 million into the budget for snitch houses. The full assembly will vote on slew of bills on Wednesday June 16, including this and other fake police reforms. Please contact assembly representatives (listed below) before then to demand they vote against any bill that will expand police funding or scope of work.
Here at ABOLISHmke, we’ve put a lot of attention on the snitch house (AB258) bill (also known as COP house) ever since it passed the senate with unanimous support. Well, that attention is starting to register victories. On June 2nd the Committee on Local Government held an executive session on it, and every democratic representative voted against it. Despite this, it still passed the committee — republicans dominate the legislature in Wisconsin.
The people of Milwaukee want less of our money going to law enforcement, but county officials are letting sheriff Earnell Lucas rake it in. Unsatisfied with their generous budget, the Milwaukee county sheriff’s office (MCSO) has a habit of overspending on overtime. They’ve also worked to take in money allocated for mental health and tried to control the shift to more humane and effective approaches to public safety. Amidst all this resource-hoarding, Lucas is also working to silence his most vocal critic on the county board.
You can fight back! The county board has an online finance committee meeting on June 17 at 9:30 am where these issues will be discussed. Sign up to testify here, or submit written comments in advance. The public testimony / comment system at the county board is circuitous and counterintuitive, likely by design to discourage participation.
[UPDATE: on Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours before the meeting time, the finance committee finally uploaded the agenda and opened eComments.
On May 13th 2021, Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) staff and guards at Green Bay CI murdered someone. We have heard from a few people who are also being held at GBCI that his name was Antonio Whatley. Despite having called GBCI, sent email inquiries to its administrators and the sheriff’s department, and filed records requests (for the victim’s name and DOC number, as well as daily shift logs), we have yet to receive any information about this from the DOC. The information we have received we are going to share here, but in the interest of protecting the people who are helping us stay informed, we will be publishing their words anonymously. They have several reasons to be concerned for their safety—both in general, and specifically when they are sharing information the guards don’t want to be shared. Retaliation that prisoners experience from guards is real, torturous, and potentially deadly.
I’d like to discuss how GBCI is being turned into the new supermax of Wisconsin.
How is that you ask?
Well the new renovations of the cages they keep us locked in for this is not a house, room, place, cell, or any other odd terms they use to describe the living conditions they lock us up to die in. Though most of us will be getting out, people like me who have to live in here every day, till our last breath—it is a living hell.
This article is part four of a series on legislation to create snitch houses, also known as “COP houses” across Wisconsin.
While advocating for snitch houses, senator Taylor made backroom deals with the republican establishment. She says she’s looking for community houses that provide wrap-around services, but what’s actually happening is police are taking control of resources and services, while expanding their role in society.
In early May, SB124 and AB258 were amended to remove the appropriation of grant funding, expand eligibility requirements to include smaller cities, and add a few usage specifications. Kelda Roys was the sole vote against this amendment in the senate committee, but she ultimately ended up voting in favor of the bill. During the May 18 assembly committee hearing, Mark Spreitzer asked the senators, “why [they] took the money out of the bill […] is it going to be a two year thing, or ongoing?
This article is part three in our series on legislation to create snitch houses, also known as “COP houses” across Wisconsin.
In the last article we showed how putting a snitch house in a targeted area reduces crime in that specific area, but increases economic and emotional strain for targeted residents. People experiencing stress are more likely to resort to crime, they just go somewhere further from police presence to do it.
At the May 18 hearing, committee member Sue S Conley, a democrat whose district borders zigzag tightly around Janesville, making the neighboring districts more solidly republican, recognized this dynamic. “You come into a neighborhood,” she said, “you establish the house […] did the problem just shift to another neighborhood?” Van Wanggaard’s response was a gleeful “sometimes,” but Taylor cut him off with a more diplomatic response that acknowledged the real problem. She went onto a tangent about drug dealers operating out of their cars rather than drug houses to be more mobile. Her statement reinforced, rather than allaying, Conley’s concern. Then Wanggaard burst back in with a great real-life example.
This is part two of our series on the legislation to create snitch houses, also known as “COP houses” across Wisconsin.
At the May 18 hearing, senator Van Wanggaard introduced the snitch house bill by portraying it as an attempt at police reform. “The police cannot be an occupying force in an area,” he emphatically stated. But, throughout his testimony, when describing how snitch houses work, his reformist mask slipped. He described police using snitch houses to “take over” and “gain control” of areas, exactly as an occupying force would. The reality that he, a former cop, cannot grapple with, is that police are always an occupying force in the neighborhoods they target. The houses AB258 seeks to fund are simply the first bulwarks of this occupation.
Senator Taylor joined in, describing the impact snitch houses have on the areas they target, but she relied heavily on some questionable statistics. She repeatedly cited a story about “20% of people causing 80% of the chaos.” If you look up this stat, the first thing you’ll likely find is quotes from pop-economist Malcolm Gladwell, a sure sign that it’s dubious and exaggerated. Digging deeper, we found the actual source, a study from Duke University where researchers were looking to prove the “Pareto Principle,” a quirky theory that the 20/80 rule applies to many aspects of life and social phenomenon.
During the May 18 public hearing on the Snitch House bill (SB124/AB258 also known as COP house bill) Lena Taylor and Van Wanggaard revealed that their co-authored, pro-cop legislation is everything we fear, and worse. We already have a long article detailing snitch houses (bootlickers call them COP houses) but, the more we learn and reflect on supporter’s statements at the hearings, the more we have to say.
There is so much to unpack from Taylor and Wanggaard’s introduction that we are going to put out a three part series, starting this week. The bill gets its first assembly committee vote on Wednesday, June 2. Please call or email the democratic members of the committee before Wednesday!
There are a few bills that expand police funding working their way through the legislature.
The snitch house, or “COP house” bill, AB258 is at the front of the pack. It uses the farce of “community oriented policing” to look like a reform, but, it actually expands not only police funding, but also puts more social services and responsibilities into the hands of the police. With this bill, in targeted neighborhoods, police may get involved in after school programs, tutoring, counseling, assistance with permits, community organizing, gardening, and more. We want to defund and abolish police. Moderates and Liberals want to “unburden” police of roles they don’t need to be in. This bill funds the police and expands their role in community life. It moves us in the opposite direction of what even the most modest reforms coming out of last summer.
Two days after the one year anniversary of his murder and on the eve of the anniversary of Minneapolis’ third precinct going up in flames, the government of Wisconsin has little interest in meeting the simple demands of the people. By refusing to institute real accountability measures for police, they are spitting on the grave of George Floyd.