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.
The WPPA is supporting legislation that would 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 on August 20, 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.
Several officers 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 the intent was called into question. Veto says this bill would 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 in the elections last year.