Gretchen Schuldt

Fire & Police Commission Okays Probe

To investigate leak of police department video. But who will do investigation and how will it be funded?

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Feb 10th, 2020 12:30 pm
Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission last week approved two independent investigations – one into the leak of confidential information about a police investigation and one into whether it was appropriate for the police to have conducted an interview with a possible suspect at the Sojourner Family Peace Center.

The leaked information included a video of the questioning by police of Kalan Haywood, Sr., who was accompanied by Commission Chairman Steven M. DeVougas, a lawyer. Haywood was interviewed as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault. He was not charged.

The police union has said DeVougas violated ethics guidelines by accompanying Haywood during the police interview.

On Thursday, DeVougas said he had voluntarily asked the city’s Ethics Board for an advisory opinion on whether he had violated any ethics rules.

Commissioner  Raymond Robakowski suggested that it would be appropriate to place DeVougas on “administrative leave” pending the outcome of the Ethics Board probe; DeVougas rejected that idea. The matter was not on the agenda for action and was dropped.

Just how the two investigations will be accomplished remains to be seen. Robakowski suggested the State Department of Justice be asked to do it, and Commissioner Everett Cocroft floated the possibility of a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department investigation. Both the DOJ and the Sheriff’s Department, however, have strong ties to the Police Department and could be seen as biased, a perception that Robakowski said he did not want.

Funding for the investigations also is an issue. It’s not clear where the money for the work will come from. Some commissioners said the Common Council should provide the resources.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

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