By Michael Bell
Team- Plea for a Change
When someone dies in a police incident, the death is reviewed either internally by coworkers of the officer(s) involved, or externally by an agency handpicked by the officer’s Police Chief.
Either approach is a clear conflict of interest that allows law enforcement to essentially investigate itself.
This is starkly at odds with other professions: Pilots, doctors, lawyers, even professional athletes are all subject to independent review.
Should law enforcement be any different? The answer is NO.
When an officer pulls the trigger and takes a life, the public should have confidence that the officer was in a clear frame of mind. But is a blood sample from the officer involved required? The answer is NO.
Please support Wisconsin Representatives Garey Bies (R) and Chris Taylor (D) in their efforts to make Wisconsin the first state to have a board of experts solely dedicated to the independent review of officer-related deaths.
Rep. Bies, a retired Chief Deputy Sheriff, and Rep. Taylor, an attorney with many years as a human rights advocate, codrafted Assembly Bill 409 and appropriately called it the “Citizens and Law Enforcement Safety Act.”
Whether a citizen perishes in a corrections facility, a police-related car crash, or by use of deadly force – under AB 409, all police related deaths will be reviewed by a panel of experienced law professionals with no relationship to the department involved. The panel, appointed by a high-ranking elected official, will possess the same level of objectivity as a grand jury.
In recent years, tragic cases in Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Madison; followed by controversial investigations by local police and district attorneys, have strained community-police relations. Police depend on community trust in order to succeed at their jobs.
AB 409 is designed to build and strengthen that trust via transparent review by experienced and independent professionals.
Bottom line, the public will have rock-solid confidence that their police force is being held to uniform and consistent standards and law enforcement will be protected from speculation and suspicion.
KEY POINTS of AB 409:
1.) Requires a three member team of investigators (two from agencies that do not employ an officer involved in the death) to prepare a report and provide it to the district attorney of the county in which the death occurred.
2.) Then, a Review Board, which the bill creates and attaches to the Department of Justice, must review the report to ensure it addresses all aspects of the death and may request further information from the investigative team.
3.) The five-member Review Board (appointed by the Attorney General) would consist of:
•A retired or reserve judge.
•A former sheriff, chief of police, chief deputy sheriff or asst. chief of police.
•An assistant attorney general.
•A professor or researcher affiliated with a Wisconsin university or college, who has expertise in the field of criminal law or criminal justice.
•A former district attorney or assistant DA, who served in that capacity for atleast 10 years.
4.) Any officer involved in a death would be required to submit a blood sample subject to testing with either the officer’s permission or a search warrant.
Please sign this petition to ensure independent and fair investigations for all officer-involved fatalities, www.AB409.com.