A bill that would create two independent boards to investigate and review all police shootings and deaths in custody will likely see many changes before it reaches the floor of the Legislature.
The current bill has strong support from the families of people who have died at the hands of police. Kenosha police shot and killed Michael Bell Sr.'s son in 2004 , and Bell has spent the last decade lobbying to change the law that allows police departments to resolve such situations through an internal investigation.
At a hearing on the bill that Bell helped draft, he said even when police departments ask a department in a neighboring county to investigate such deaths, they aren't truly independent.
“Why did you pick them? Are they cozy? Are they friendly? Is it reciprocating review (where), 'You clear me of wrongdoing, I clear you of any wrongdoing?'” Bell asked. “I'd like you to name one (police) department in the state of Wisconsin that ever found another department's shooting unjustified: They don't exist.”
Bell worked closely with Wisconsin Professional Police Association in drafting the bill, but WPPA President Jim Palmer said he isn't happy with the result. He said his members support independent investigations but oppose the review board proposed in the bill because it creates an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
Palmer also opposes a provision in the bill that would require any officer involved in a shooting death to be tested for drugs or alcohol.
“If there is probable cause to believe an officer has operated in an impaired way, then the test should be taken, absolutely. But I don't believe that probable cause arises merely by their being involved in a police shooting,” he said.
The lead author of the bill, Republican Rep. Garey Bies, said he's open to and expects changes in the bill before it gets a vote in the criminal justice committee.