Milwaukee County Supervisors Proposing External Investigations Of Jail Deaths

Request Comes After 4 Deaths At County Jail Since April

meesh (CC BY 2.0)

Milwaukee County supervisors will consider a new policy to recommend external investigations of in-custody deaths at the county jail or the county-run house of corrections.

The policy comes after four people, including an infant, have died at the county jail since April.

State law requires an external investigation to take place whenever a law enforcement is involved in a death. However, that law does not apply to jail officers. Milwaukee County Board Chairman, Theodore Lipscomb Sr., said the proposed policy will resemble what’s already in place at the state level.

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“That’s really what we modeled this after,” Lipscomb said. “I believe it’s a reasonable expectation to put on the jail and the house of corrections. Just as it was reasonable for the state to impose that on law enforcement agencies.”

Lipscomb said they owe it to the public to conduct external investigations.

“It’s important that we’re able to be transparent with the public about what’s going on in that facility,” the chairman said. “I think people have that expectation, and I’d like to make sure that we’re a good example or better example than we’ve been of providing safety and transparency.”

The county jail is run by the sheriff’s office and houses about 950 inmates daily.

Even if the supervisors pass the resolution, they still don’t have the power to require action from the sheriff’s office, Lipscomb said. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke will still have the final say on if an external review will occur. However, Lipscomb said he hopes Clarke would cooperate with the recommendation.

Clarke has said supervisors are drawing attention away from what he called a crisis level of opioid deaths in the county.

The proposal will be considered at a county supervisors subcommittee meeting Thursday.