Wed., Feb. 26, 2014 | NEWS
Bill requiring outside investigators for police-involved deaths likely to get Senate vote
Gilman Halsted | WPR
MADISON - A bill to change how police departments investigate police-involved deaths has faced some strong criticism, but supporters say it's likely to pass the state Senate soon.
The bill has already passed the Assembly and a Senate committee gave it unanimous approval this week. It would require that all investigations of what are called “in-custody deaths” include at least two investigators from outside the department that employs the officer involved in killing the suspect.
Republican state Sen. Joe Leibham says it would also ensure that family members of victims are well-informed about how the investigation is being carried out.
“The victim information that is part of this bill is key,” he said. “I think that can ease a lot of the confusion and pain that's there by just even knowing what's available. ”
Family members of the victims of police-involved deaths have been pushing for a more independent and transparent investigation process for the past decade. Bill co-sponsor state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) says she believes their efforts have paid off.
“People want this bill. It has bipartisan support. It should get to the Senate floor, but we're not going to stop working until it does get to that Senate floor,” Taylor said. “I am very confident that if it gets there it's going to pass, and we're going to be the first state in the nation to have an independent investigatory framework in officer-involved deaths. ”
The bill has faced opposition from the Milwaukee police chief and the city's fire and police commission that carries out the investigations of in-custody deaths. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen also opposes the bill, calling it an unnecessary additional layer of bureaucracy and predicts that if it passes, justice in such cases could be compromised.