Rep. Taylor Proposes Updates to Officer-Involved Death Law
Measures will enhance independence, accountability
MADISON – Today, Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) circulated two bills updating Wisconsin’s officer-involved death law, 2013 Wisconsin Act 348. This law passed unanimously last session, becoming the first law in the nation to require the appointment of at least two outside investigators in all officer-involved death investigations. Today, Rep. Taylor, one of the original co-sponsors of Act 348, circulated two bills that continue to create a more independent, transparent process in all aspects of officer involved deaths.
LRB 4555 adds an additional safeguard that requires both outside investigators of officer-involved death investigations to not have an immediate past employment history with the law enforcement agency employing the officer being investigated.
“This common-sense clarification that investigators need to be removed in time from investigating their former co-workers will enhance accountability and the public’s trust in the process,” stated Rep. Taylor.
LRB 3570 requires that a special prosecutor be appointed to assess the investigative report prepared when there is an officer-involved death, make charging decisions and, if charges are brought, prosecute the case. The chief judge in the regional judicial administrative district where the death occurred will appoint the special prosecutor.
“Because district attorneys must have close working relationships with law enforcement in order to do their jobs, appointing a special prosecutor introduces another level of independence and impartiality to a situation that can otherwise cloud the public’s trust of the process,” stated Rep. Taylor. “This bill also relieves a district attorney of potentially deciding whether to prosecute a close work colleague.”
Toni Biegert, whose son Joseph was killed in an officer-involved incident in February 2015, supports these additional protections. Ms. Biegert stated, “When my son died, I had serious doubts about the ability of the investigators and district attorney to independently review my son’s case. These bills are a needed reassurance that the entire process will be more independent. The public needs this confidence.”
Legislators have an opportunity to sign on to both bills until February 8th.
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