The Associated Press
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MADISON, Wis. — Police agencies around the state would have to give all prospective full-time officers a psychological test before offering them a job under a bill the state Senate passed Tuesday.
The measure comes in response to last fall’s mass murder in Crandon. Tyler Peterson, an off-duty Forest County Sheriff’s deputy and part-time Crandon Police officer, flew into a rage at a party and gunned down seven people, killing six of them, with his SWAT rifle. Peterson killed himself hours later.
Peterson never underwent psychological testing to become a police officer. State law doesn’t mandate departments give candidates mental exams, although many larger departments require it.
The relatives’ of victims have demanded mandatory psychological testing.
Under the bill, the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board would develop the test. Agencies statewide would have to hire trained evaluators to administer the tests to candidates as the final step before getting a job offer beginning July 1, 2009.
The training board would issue a report by July 2011 on the tests’ effectiveness and whether they should extend to part-time and SWAT officers.
The bill lays out no funding for the tests, leaving it up to individual departments to cover the costs. Fiscal statements attached to the bill estimate individual tests run anywhere from $500 to $1,000.
Local governments hire for about 450 law enforcement positions annually, the statements said. Assuming each test costs about $600, the bill could cost those governments about $300,000 a year in total.
The Democratic-authored measure passed on a voice vote. It now goes to the Republican-controlled Assembly, which last week refused to consider an identical version.
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Some Republican lawmakers oppose placing an unfunded mandate on local police and fear testing could open departments up to lawsuits.