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Wisconsin State Rep. David Bowen Says He's Working to Tear Down & Rebuild Laws Surrounding Policing

Rep. David Bowen speaking on the Assembly floor
Courtesy Office of Rep. David Bowen
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Wisconsin Democratic State Rep. David Bowen

Once again, a viral video is raising questions about how police officers treat Black men.

The latest video shows a police officer in Virginia pepper spraying a Black and Latino man and forcing him to the ground. The man — an active member of the U.S. Army — was in uniform at the time. But whether it’s a military uniform or a hoodie, the incident shows that biases remain regardless of how a person of color is dressed.

Last summer, a group of young, Black elected official got together to help change this narrative about Black men, showcasing themselves in both casual and work clothes. Wisconsin Democratic State Rep. David Bowen took part in the video.

Bowen says he can’t help but think about other videos he’s seen of white people who have weapons during confrontations with police and aren’t killed or treated the way the Army lieutenant in Virginia was.

“The man is being very respectful. He’s trying to see what’s going on and there’s so much of a level of aggression that is unequal to how the person is even reacting that clearly makes it clear that this is … not about respectability,” he says.

Bowen says if it was about respectability, Black people would survive a lot more encounters with police. “It doesn’t matter what you wear, how you talk, where you’re from, this skin is what gets you killed,” he says.

One of the officers in the now viral video out of Virginia has resigned.

Still, Bowen says there is a system in place to protect police officers that he’s been fighting to dismantle for years.

“It means something for me to know that I have to see this through. No matter what the cost is, what it takes, even if it costs me my position because demanding change on this issue for some people is too much. I’m willing to take it that far," he says.

Bowen says he was elected for a reason, and that was to dismantle the system and rebuild it in a way that’s just and equitable.

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LaToya Dennis joined WUWM in October 2006 as a reporter / producer. LaToya began her career in public radio as a part-time reporter for WKAR AM/FM in East Lansing, Michigan. She worked as general assignment reporter for WKAR for one and a half years while working toward a master's degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. While at WKAR, she covered General Motors plant closings, city and state government, and education among other critical subjects.