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Wisconsin Law Mandates Independent Review of Officer-Involved Deaths

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independent review, Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal statuteIn the wake of the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, a Wisconsin law that was passed back in April is getting new scrutiny across the country. The law requires an independent set of professionals to review officer-involved deaths, and many people are viewing it as a necessary check on police power. The law itself came to pass largely due to the efforts of a father, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, whose son was shot by a police officer.

What the Law Requires

The law creates two new bodies, a board for reviewing officer-involved deaths and a special investigative team for each individual death. The board is comprised of five members: a retired or reserve judge, a former police official such as a sheriff or chief of police, an assistant attorney general, a professor from a Wisconsin college or university who has experience in criminal law or justice, and a former district attorney or assistant district attorney with at least 10 years of experience. The members of the board serve for four-year terms and are appointed by the attorney general.

The special investigative team is made up of three members, and two must be from agencies other than the police department that employs the officer involved in the death. The investigative team prepares a report which they then pass on to the district attorney, who gives it to the review board for officer-involved deaths. The board reviews the report for completeness, and has the option of requesting more information from the investigative team. The board then forwards the completed report to the Department of Justice, and also recommends a course of action to the district attorney. The board may also make the completed report available to anyone responsible for disciplining the officer.

 The Story behind the Law

The law itself is the result of an advocacy effort on behalf of a father whose son was shot by police in front of his mother and sister, while wearing handcuffs. The family eventually received almost $2 million from the department, after taking them to court. That money then went towards funding a campaign that eventually won changing the way that the state reviews officer-involved deaths. They felt the changes were necessary because the department’s own internal investigators absolved the officer of any wrongdoing within 48 hours. In fact, in the 129 years of police investigations available, no one could find a documented instance of a police department deciding that a shooting was unjustified.

These sorts of review boards are just one way to ensure that the state respects the rights of the accused. If you have recently been charged with a crime, and want to ensure that your rights are protected, contact an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney today.

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