Changes called for in police investigation law

Changes called for in police investigation law

Protests are continuing in Milwaukee after a district attorney’s decision not to charge a Milwaukee police officer with the shooting of Dontre Hamilton, and there are also calls for more changes to the police investigation law.

The law was signed by Gov. Scott Walker seven days before Hamilton was shot by former officer Christopher Manney in Milwaukee. The law requires an investigation of any police shootings to be done by two independent investigators outside of the department involved in the shooting.

But Michael Bell, whose son was killed by a Kenosha officer in 2004, said the law needs to be amended following the Hamilton investigation, which was led by a state Department of Criminal Investigation agent who had a long tenure previously with the Milwaukee Police Department.

“I knew that the law we eventually got passed would be subverted, but I didn’t expect it to be subverted in seven days,” Bell said. “By bringing in retired Milwaukee police officers to investigate this case it raised question marks. It’s about public trust and right now there’s no public trust when these things are in the background.

Lawmaker Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, co-authored the bill and said changes should be made next year.

“I do think perhaps we need to go back and look at tweaking the original law to make sure these independent investigators don’t have a prior relationship with the department or the officer for that matter,” Taylor said. “That kind of circumvents the whole point of the law.”

She and Bell also want to bring back a provision that was stripped from the bill to require an independent board to review an investigation before it goes to the DA.

“Just another set of eyes to look and make sure everything was done right in the investigation,” Taylor said.

In a statement, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Dana Brueck said, “The Milwaukee Police Department’s involvement in some aspects of this investigation, under the direction of independent DCI special agents, was in full compliance with the requirements of Act 348 and did not compromise in any way the thorough investigation.”

Brueck continued, “If legislative members wish to change the new law, that will be up to them.”