Several Milwaukee aldermen on Friday called for an independent investigation into the death of Derek Williams, a 21-year-old man who died in the back of a police squad car in July of 2011, after he was arrested on suspicion of robbery. The squad car dashboard video released this week showed Williams gasping for air and pleading with officers to help him.
Alderman Milele Coggs was one of several city and county leaders who met with the medical examiner on Friday. Coggs said many questions remain about the way authorities handled Williams’ death.”Why did it take so long for the medical examiner to look at the videotape and any additional police reports? Why was that not a part of the original evaluation of the medical examiner?”
Brian Peterson with the medical examiner’s office reportedly did not review police reports or the dashboard video before ruling Williams died of natural causes.
Common Council President Willie Hines spoke at the news conference. and said aldermen made progress by meeting with the medical examiner and sharing concerns about the office’s procedures. However, Hines said aldermen have more work to do, to prevent incidents such as Williams’ death from happening again. “Despite the meetings that we’ve had, we are still disgusted, we are still angered, we are still troubled by what we saw,” said Hines. “As policy makers we will do everything within our power to change systems – change them structurally, to never be here again. no family ever should ever have to experience the loss of a loved one when they are crying out for help.”
Coggs said she and her colleagues will draft legislation requiring better guidelines and record-keeping in the future.