Families Call For Policy Change Around Any Police-Involved Death
By Gilman Halsted
Friday, November 8, 2013, 11:22pm
The families of three young men who died while in police custody are backing a bill that would change the way such deaths are investigated.
Michael Bell of Kenosha has been on a crusade to change the process for investigating police-involved fatalities ever since his unarmed son was shot by police nine years ago. Now with the support of two other families whose sons died in similar circumstances and a bipartisan group of state legislators, he's pushing for the passage of a bill that would require an independent investigation of all police-involved deaths.
“Essentially now what occurs is that a police department reviews itself,” Bell said, “or a police chief hand picks an agency to review a police-involved death.”
Under the proposed change any time a police officer causes the death of a citizen there would be an investigation by at least two law enforcement specialist who do not not work for the same police department as the officer involved in the shooting. The bill also creates a state wide board that would review the results of each investigation.
State Rep. Chris Taylor says it's a direct response to recent deaths that have caused turmoil in communities in both Madison and Milwaukee. “What this bill really tries to ensure is a process that is fair, a process that's transparent, a process that's unbiased,” she said. “And I think that's good: not just for the families, not just for our communities but it's good for law enforcement.”
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has called the bill unnecessary and ultimately unworkable. The families backing the bill hope it will get its first public hearing in December.