September 2, 2014

Bill would expand police search powers

Individuals on probation or parole could be subject to more police searches, under a bill being considered at the state Capitol.

Current state law allows Department of Corrections agents to search the property of individuals on probation or parole if they suspect an individual is violating the terms of their supervision. Legislation from state Senator Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) would expand that power to all law enforcement. Liebham says it would be restricted to if a law enforcement officer “reasonably suspects that the person is committing, is about to commit, or has committed a crime or a violation of their condition of field supervision.”

Sheboygan Police Captain Bob Wallace says the change will help them improve public safety by allowing those out in the field to quickly investigate possible criminal behavior. Wallace told a legislative committee Thursday that the bill would “be a tool that would assist law enforcement officers in keeping the citizens of this great state safe, and aid in the apprehension of criminal suspects.”

AUDIO: Captain Wallace (:09)

The proposal is raising some concerns though. Anthony Cotton with the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says it’s a broad expansion of police powers that could be easily abused by claiming there’s reasonable suspicion to do a search. Under the bill, Cotton says all it would take is a tip from someone to allow police to go to someone’s home and conduct a search.

AUDIO: Anthony Cotton (:10)

The bill is currently being considered by a state Senate committee.