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Evers’ shifting views on law enforcement

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, like a lot of leftists, are happy to attack and defund law enforcement — until they need them.

Less than a year after Evers claimed police have “mercilessly killed” in Wisconsin, he vetoed a measure in the recently passed state budget that would have checked his lieutenant governor’s extravagant spending on State Patrol security.

“I am vetoing this section because I object to limiting cost expenditures in this manner because, as I said last budget, it undercuts the judgment of law enforcement,” the Democrat wrote in his veto message. “Security measures continue to be the purview of law enforcement, not the Legislature. Limiting expenditures on security would put the lives of officers, the Lieutenant Governor, staff, and the general public at risk.”

Of course, Evers didn’t mind undercutting the “judgement of law enforcement” on Aug. 23, 2020, when he attacked the Kenosha Police Department after an officer-involved shooting of a black suspect. The suspect, Jacob Blake, was wanted on a warrant for his involvement in a domestic violence and sexual assault case. The governor admitted he didn’t have all the facts, but that didn’t stop him from politically painting Kenosha cops as racist villains.

“[W]e know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country,” Evers said in a statement within hours after a police officer shot Blake, who repeatedly resisted arrest, failed to follow law enforcement orders, and reached for a knife in his vehicle. An extensive investigation into the incident cleared the white police officer of wrongdoing, concluding that the officer had acted in self defense.

Now, suddenly Evers has law enforcement’s back.

The budget measure was aimed at protecting taxpayer money and effectively managing finite State Patrol Resources. As has been widely reported, Barnes liberally used the Wisconsin State Patrol Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU) for security and transportation to and from personal events. The lieutenant governor could not drive at the time because his vehicle registration had been suspended after a number of unpaid tickets.

A WisPolitics review of records found the state’s Dignitary Protection Unit put in nine times as many hours providing Democrat Barnes protection in the first few months of 2019 as it did his predecessor, Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, during her final full year on the job.

“The cost for the nearly 898 hours the DPU logged accompanying Barnes to official, personal and political events totaled $36,662 — more than half of that for overtime — and puts him on pace for nearly $220,000 in protection for the full year,” the publication reported at the time.

“Meanwhile, Kleefisch received protection on seven days over all of 2018, compared to the 47 that DPU officers accompanied Barnes between Dec. 28 and March 1. The total cost to protect Kleefisch last year was $4,370 for 95.5 hours.”

So Evers is worried about putting a cap on security expenditures for Barnes because doing so would “put the lives of officers, the Lieutenant Governor, staff, and the general public at risk.”

But the governor had no compunction about making incendiary, anti-police comments just as rioters were about to tear through Kenosha, smashing and looting stores and burning down buildings. The riots certainly put the general public and officers’ lives at risk. Law enforcement leaders at the time asked Evers and Barnes to stop making overheated, politically driven statements on the officer-involved shooting until the facts of the investigation were known.

The governor and his lieutenant didn’t defer to the judgment of law enforcement then. It wasn’t politically convenient for them.

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