Senate Will Likely Vote On Police Shootings Bill

Bill Approved By Assembly Has Support Of Victims' Families, Statewide Police Union

A police shooting in Madison was the partial impetus for the bill. Photo: Cliff (CC-BY)

A first-of-its-kind bill that would require police departments to use outside investigators to handle deaths involving their own police officers will likely get a vote in the state Senate on April 1.

The state Assembly passed the bill in February after it went through several changes. Amendments removed provisions for a statewide panel to review all police-involved deaths and eliminated a provision that would have required police officers who kill a suspect in the line of duty to undergo a drug and alcohol test. The final product has the support both of victim’s families and the statewide police union .

Families of the victims in such cases have been lobbying for the new law for several years. Amelia Royko Maurer, whose friend Paul Heenan was killed by a Madison police officer in 2012, says the bill is a step in the right direction.

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“It is a step forward, in multiple steps that need to be taken to insure that an amount of objectivity and transparency exists when officers are investigated for fatalities,” said Royko Maurer.

Supporters of the bill say it should increase trust between police departments and the public. Many police departments do use outside investigators when their officers kill someone, but Royko Maurer says Wisconsin would become the first state in the country to mandate the practice: “Different departments do whatever the chief or the sheriff want them to do, and the point of this bill – and a lot of leaders support this idea – is that it shouldn’t be a choice.”

There have been two police-involved deaths in Wisconsin this year. The Dunn County district attorney last week cleared officers involved in the Feb. 12 shooting of a drug suspect. The death of a Milwaukee robbery suspect shot by police on Jan. 29 is still under investigation.