MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A new bill would change the way Wisconsin law enforcement agencies investigate fatal shootings and other deaths involving their officers.
The measure would require police departments to include at least two people from outside agencies on the team that investigates whether a law was violated, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Republican state Rep. Garey Bies, who said he's close to introducing the bill, said there have been public concerns after police in Kenosha and Madison fatally shot two young men and another man died in the custody of Milwaukee police. He said the public doesn't always have confidence when a police department investigates its own officers.
Bies cited a number of officer-involved shootings, including one where Kenosha police killed 21-year-old Michael Bell in 2004 and Madison police shot 30-year-old Paul Heenan in November.
Many larger law enforcement agencies, including Madison police and the Dane County sheriff's office, conduct their own criminal investigations when an officer is involved in a shooting. But it's becoming more common for departments to bring in an outside agency to investigate, said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
In addition to looking into whether laws were broken, many police departments also conduct internal investigations to determine whether any policies were violated, said state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. She said she's working on a separate measure requiring those reviews be conducted with more independence.
After Heenan was shot, Madison police updated their procedures for investigating shootings and other critical incidents involving their officers. The new protocols, which are subject to final approvals, allow the option of having an outside agency conduct the criminal investigation.
But Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said it remains policy for the department to conduct its own investigations unless there's a specific reason to bring in an outside agency.
Wray was consulted about the soon-to-be-introduced legislative bill and supports at least part of it, but he couldn't say whether he'd completely back it until he saw the final form, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.
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