A legislative committee unanimously approved a new bill Thursday that will establish independent oversight of deaths associated with law enforcement officers in the form of investigative teams.
Introduced by Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, and Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, the bipartisan bill would make Wisconsin the first state in the nation with an independent framework for the investigation of deaths that occur in custody of law enforcement, according to a statement from Taylor.
“Ultimately, we were able to bring all interested parties together on a compromise that could make history, while bringing transparency and independence to the investigation,” said Taylor. “When a shooting happens in your community, everyone wants a fast, fair and impartial investigation.”
The bill comes after a 2013 internal investigation cleared Madison Police Department Officer Stephan Heimsness of guilt in the death of Paul Heenan in his custody. Friends of Heenan objected to the ruling on the basis that the investigation was subjective and inconsistent and called for a more independent process.
The bill is also in response to the deaths of two unarmed men in Milwaukee. The bill will now go to the Senate for a vote and, if approved, will be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.