Just a week after Governor Scott Walker signed a bill into law that changes the way departments investigate an officer firing his or her weapon, two fatal officer-involved shootings have taken place in Dane County.
The new law, the first of its kind in the country, requires two outside agencies to investigate officer-involved shootings and puts new mandates on public records on those incidents.
Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) President Jim Palmer supported the bill through the legislative process and said the new rules also make sure law enforcement is constantly looking at training.
“On top of that, the department will have its own internal investigation so it can evaluate whether the officers followed their procedure whether there are training opportunities that need to be evaluated,” Palmer explained, “so I think it will be a very comprehensive investigation on all sides.”
UW Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling said she sent two officers to Primrose Thursday when a Dane County deputy shot and killed a man. UW Police has brought in an outside agency to investigate officer-involved shootings over the last 23 years that she has led the force.
“These are the most emotional things for police agencies to go through, and it's probably best with all of that emotion for someone else from the outside step in,” Riseling said.
Riseling said she is working with a number of Dane County departments on a separate agreement, which is set to be signed in June.
Under that agreement, there is an additional commitment to have an observer on every officer-involved shooting scene. That officer from an outside agency would be responsible for overseeing the command center at those scenes.
The agreement also applies the same requirements for officer-involved shootings to jail deaths.
Along with that, Riseling said the agreement provides the opportunity to consolidate resources and create a running list of officers with experience in officer-involved situations.
“God forbid, we had another one today or tomorrow or sometime this week,” Riseling explained. “These take time and they take a lot of people. So we need to build that group so that we have a larger resource to draw from.”
Riseling said most agencies were already following the protocol outlined in the new law and the agreement, it’s good to get it in writing.
“Since it's the first in the country, I think Wisconsin leads, and when Wisconsin leads, that's usually a good thing,” Riseling added.