Appearing with Rep. Chris Danou (left) and Sen. Jim Sullivan (right), WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer spoke at a press conference on August 20 to support the Police Protection Bill.
he WPPA is pleased to announce that two bills of great importance to its members have been approved by both houses of the legislature and are headed to Governor Doyle’s desk for his signature. The success of both bills was made possible by aggressive lobbying and the willingness of the members to come to testify at legislative committee hearings in Madison and to contact their state legislators.
THE POLICE PROTECTION BILL
Assembly Bill 269 will make it a felony if an officer is hurt in the line of duty because of a suspect’s resistance or attempt to flee. At a news conference to announce the August 20, 2009 introduction of the bill, WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer, State Representative Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) and State Senator Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa) explained that it would make suspects more likely to comply if they know there are potentially harsher penalties in attempting to get away.
In cases where police are injured by those attempting to flee, Palmer further pointed out that the accused are rarely punished. He said the prosecutor must prove that the accused intended to injure the officer, which is difficult to do. The Police Protection Bill will hold individuals accountable for injuries that would not have occurred but for their efforts to escape an arrest.
Throughout this legislative process, officers from around the state that were injured from resisting or fleeing suspects told their story, including Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy Dale Veto. While attempting to stop an erratic driver, Veto deployed road spikes. The suspect’s car swerved over, hitting Veto at 60 miles per hour. Both of Veto’s legs were broken in the collision, and he suffered significant muscle and nerve damage as well. The driver, a teen in a stolen car, was never charged with a felony for the injuries because his intent was called into question. This bill will provide a “safety net” for cases such as his.
The Police Protection bill would also apply to third parties whose obstruction of a pursuit leads to the injury of an officer.
Both authors of the bill, Representative Danou, himself a former Onalaska police officer, and Senator Sullivan, were heavily supported by the WPPA when they ran for office.
THE INFECTIOUS DISEASE BILL ALSO TO BECOME LAW
Senate Bill 429 will establish a duty-disability presumption for certain communicable diseases. Under current law, in a proceeding regarding the benefits for a state, county, or municipal fire fighter who dies or is disabled as the result of a heart or respiratory impairment or disease or of cancer, there is a presumption that the impairment or disease was caused by the employment as a fire fighter if the fire fighter served a minimum term in that employment (five years for a heart or respiratory impairment or disease and ten years for cancer) and the qualifying medical examination given before his or her joining the fire department showed no evidence of the impairment or disease.
Under this bill, when a state, county, or municipal fire fighter, emergency medical service provider, law enforcement officer, or correctional officer dies or becomes disabled as a result of certain infectious diseases, the law will presume that the disease was caused by the person’s employment if the person’s qualifying medical examination showed no evidence of the disease. The bill does not require a minimum term of employment to qualify for the presumption.
Due to the fact that public safety personnel can be easily exposed to these diseases, this is a valuable new law that recognizes the dangers intrinsic to this profession, and makes sure that we as a society continue to take care of those who can no longer work due to their service.
This legislation was authored by Senator Sulivan and State Representative Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee).