After the Madison Police Department faced accusations that its investigation of an officer involved shooting was not independent enough, the city is looking countywide for new detectives to assist with future investigations in an effort to update their standard operating procedures for these incidents.
MPD is looking into hiring detectives outside of their department to work on officer involved critical incidents, according to MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain. MPD is also updating its standard operating procedure by broadening the definition of what an officer involved critical incident is, defining the purpose of the outsider and recording the officer interviews, an MPD statement said.
“We support putting together a group of people within Dane County’s law enforcement [agencies] to investigate critical incidences involving police officers,” DeSpain said.
According to a police statement, every time an officer is involved in a critical incident, it provides MPD with an opportunity to improve the way they serve the community.
University of Wisconsin law professor David Schultz said there are many important things people should take into consideration when looking at officer involved critical incidents.
“One issue is always whether they are following their own department policy or not that is responding the way they were trained to respond,” Schultz said.
Most police departments have pretty specific guidelines on use of force and the departments expects their officers to follow these rules, Schultz said.
Schultz also said it is important to consider the criminal liability of the police officer when looking at officer involved critical incidents. According to Schultz, criminal charges against police in the sense of criminal liability are rare, but it is still another possibility in terms of what standards will be applied in these situations.
However, without the finer details, Schultz said it is not quite clear how this plan will turn out.
“I guess it depends on how it is set up,” Schultz said. “One of the concerns that has been raised in Madison lately is there are some people who are suspicious of the department doing their own investigation, and bringing people in from outside to review things would be more objective for conclusion that outsiders reach.”
Schultz said this plan of bringing outside detectives in to work on officer involved critical incidences is totally dependent on the way in which it is set up and what type of crime is being investigated and when.
Schultz added those working on these types of cases need to consider what the target is in the incident, whether they are reviewing actions the department already took, whether they are determining if officers complied with policy or whether they are considering other state laws.
“All officer involved critical incidents pose considerable challenge to officers, department members and the community,” the MPD statement said. “It is our hope that by expanding and improving our officer involved critical incidences standard operating procedure, we can mitigate these challenges, support our officers through consistent, competent and compassionate practices, and continue to provide the excellent services that citizens have come to expect from the Madison Police Department.”