Wisconsin's New Police Shootings Law: Is It Working?
Thursday, March 12, 2015
MADISON, Wis. - In the wake of the shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri early this morning, more eyes may turn to Wisconsin and its similar troubles. Just under a year ago, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to pass a law that forbids police agencies from investigating incidents themselves when an officer shoots and kills someone.
Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor of Madison co-authored the law. Now, with the killing last week of an unarmed, 19-year-old black man in Madison by a city police officer, the law has come into play again, and the state Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) is in charge of the investigation.
According to Taylor, the new law got off to a rough start.
"I wasn't that satisfied with some of those early investigations," Taylor says. "Because I think it revealed that DCI, which was the independent agency called in to do the investigation, really wasn't in charge, particularly in the Milwaukee case of Dontre Hamilton. But there's no excuse now."
Taylor is also a member of the Joint Committee on Finance, which last week heard testimony from Attorney General Brad Schimel requesting more money to hire staff to conduct these independent investigations. Taylor says in the state's $70 billion budget, the money is there.
"I absolutely am confident we can provide the funds necessary, if people are willing to make some different choices," she says. "The money is there, it's just been allocated differently. So, what I'll be advocating for is that we provide the money that the Department of Justice needs."
Taylor believes the new law will work in the Madison shooting last week, but says it isn't the solution to concerns about police shootings of unarmed black men.
"There are other things we can do to make sure the process is as fair as possible, and the investigation that we get is as thorough and independent as possible," she says. "The law we have here in Wisconsin was just one little first step towards that, frankly."
In the Madison police shooting case last Friday, Taylor says she is confident DCI will conduct an independent and thorough investigation. She adds she is hopeful the new law will give the independent investigation process a chance to work, so the families of the people involved and the community will get the answers they need.
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