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Senate Republicans Bicker With DOJ Over Wisconsin’s Missing And Murdered Black Women Task Force

Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, who chairs the Senate Committee on Government Operations, blocked a hearing for the task force in March.

Republican state senators and the state’s Department of Justice stand in disagreement over a legislative proposal aimed at establishing a task force to investigate the issue of missing and murdered Black women in Wisconsin.

Spearheaded by Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, the bill achieved a rare feat in February after garnering robust bipartisan support in the Assembly. According to The Cap Times, it also unanimously cleared the Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families. However, the proposal’s momentum stalled as it was never brought to the Senate floor for a vote, drawing ire from Democrats who attempted to push it forward during a recent session where Republicans sought to override a series of gubernatorial vetoes.

Senate Republicans who impeded the bill’s progress have called upon Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to create the task force himself. Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, who chairs the Senate Committee on Government Operations, wrote Kaul, citing his previous establishment of a cohort probing cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. “Notwithstanding the laudable motives of the (bill’s) authors, it was my determination that the creation of a DOJ task force does not require legislation,” the May 16 letter stated. “I reached this conclusion, in part, as a result of the precedent set through your unilateral establishment in 2020.”

“What I think we’ve seen from Stroebel…is an effort to deflect responsibility from their failure to take this bill up and to take legislative action,” Kaul said.

The state’s top law enforcement official underscored the fundamental differences between the two task forces, highlighting distinct funding mechanisms and law enforcement strategies. Kaul elucidated that the Indigenous women’s task force drew upon federal Violence Against Women Act funding, which is currently unavailable, potentially delaying the creation of a task force focused on Black women. Moreover, Kaul emphasized the pivotal involvement of tribal governments and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Indigenous women’s task force, necessitating disparate processes for gathering and storing information.

Stroebel initially blocked a hearing for the bill in March, contending that all missing and murdered individuals should receive equal attention irrespective of race or gender. However, Kaul and others argue that Black women are impacted differently by this issue. The conversation regarding the task force remains open between Kaul, Stubbs, and other legislators.

The cost for the cohort has been estimated at $380,000 for one year’s operation.

Stroebel asserted that the creation of the task force lies in the hands of the Department of Justice.