A statewide police officers organization is pushing the Wisconsin Senate to take up a bill that would require an outside agency to investigate officer involved shootings. Wisconsin Professional Police Association executive director Jim Palmer says most departments already do that, but it should be a requirement. Palmer says a poll from the Saint Norbert College survey center shows the public wants an outside review of cases where an officer uses deadly force.
“Eighty three percent of the respondents had more confidence in an investigation of an officer’s use of deadly force if it’s conducted by an outside agency,” Palmer said. A similar number, 81 percent, favored a state law that would have outside agencies conduct those investigations.
The bill (AB 409) passed the Assembly in February and was unanimously approved by a Senate committee last week. The bill was prompted by the deaths of Paul Heenan, fatally shot by a Madison police officer outside his home last year; Derek Williams, who died after begging for help and gasping for breath in the back of a Milwaukee police squad car in 2011; and Michael Bell, shot in the head at close range by Kenosha police in his family’s driveway in 2004. All three men were unarmed.
“The situations that have made headlines over the last several years come from those isolated situations where agencies investigate their own officer involved deaths,” Palmer said. “We think that is probably a much better practice, and one that will really help foster an improved level of public trust.”