The state's largest law enforcement group is embracing a new bill that could change the way police shootings are investigated.
Anytime there is an officer-involved death, like a shooting, it's investigated. But some departments investigate their own officers, leaving the door open for the perception that they are protecting their own.
Assembly Bill 409 would require the investigation to involve two people from outside the police agency, one would serve as the lead investigator. Many police departments already do it, but not all.
The Wisconsin Professional Police Association is in favor of the bill saying it helps build trust between police and the public. "We've supported a positive reform that requires agencies to call in outside departments to investigate these matters," said Jim Palmer, President of the WPPA, "we think it goes a long way facilitating and improving the level of trust that the public has in what law enforcement does and that's fundamentally important."
The WPPA just finished a statewide poll that shows that 81% of people in Wisconsin support the new law. It also shows six in ten believe when an officers pulls their weapon and uses it, they are justified. "We thought that was a good, healthy number," said Palmer, "about 60% of the people, of the respondents felt that law enforcement is doing it's job when it has to exercise that level of force, clearly there's some room for improvement."
The bill requiring an independent review of deadly force passed the state legislature and is waiting for the Governor's signature. Governor Walker is checking with legal counsel but says he will most likely sign the bill soon.
The WPPA poll shows crime is a top priority of Wisconsin residents, behind only education.