Establish an Independent Review Process in Cases of Police Caused Death

MY TESTIMONY IN FAVOR OF AB 409

December 12, 2013-Wisconsin Assembly Criminal Justice Committee 

It is with great pleasure that I come before you today to testify in support of AB 409.  This bill represents an important first step to insure that law enforcement officials respect the Constitutional rights of the people of Wisconsin.  While the vast majority of law enforcement officials indeed serve and protect residents, citizens and visitors in Wisconsin, sadly and occasionally, rogue police officers violate the state and US Constitutional guarantees to be free from unwarranted abuse by police.

AB 409 represents merely a first step in providing an appropriate safeguard in the worst-case scenario of Constitutional abuse by law enforcement officials, i.e., the taking of someone’s life by such officials.  From my perspective, such independent review should happen in all cases of police brutality.

For example, I represent a middle school student with emotional disabilities in Sun Prairie who had his Constitutional rights violated when Officer Brandon Lingle slammed his head to the hard school floor without provocation earlier this year, giving my client a concussion and bleeding in his eye.  It also traumatized my client, who now is fearful of this police liaison officer who continues to maintain his post at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.  Fortunately, this incident was caught on a school security camera providing an excellent view of this Constitutional violation.

My client’s mother, who is a low-income single parent, sought an investigation by the Sun Prairie police, but that department merely informed her that Officer Lingle’s actions were appropriate.  As a result, she retained me and I have filed a federal lawsuit (Case No. 13-cv-414, W.D. Wis.) on my clients’ behalf to enforce his Constitutional rights.  In order to successfully prosecute this case, I have obtained an independent expert police conduct report, which has identified multiple violations of my client’s civil rights by Officer Lingle and the Sun Prairie police department, which clearly failed to provide appropriate supervision and discipline in this case.

The citizens of Wisconsin should not be forced to file a federal lawsuit to protect their Constitutional rights when police officers abuse them, especially when law enforcement officials kill them.  AB 409 takes an important first step to protect everyone from rogue police officers who kill anyone in Wisconsin.  I urge the Committee to promptly pass this bi-partisan measure.

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One thought on “Establish an Independent Review Process in Cases of Police Caused Death

  1. An independent review process of police related deaths needs to empowered not only to review if police followed procedures but if the procedures contributed to the death and if alternate procedures are available.

    All three deaths by police in the city of Madison have been of people with severe behavioral problems One was an unarmed severely intoxicated person with a history of drug abuse. Two were suffering acute exacerbations of their known mental health problems. One was armed with a sword and the other with a kitchen knife.

    The 60 year old man with a kitchen knife was in a suicidal crisis from his chronic depression and stabbed himself in the abdomen. His wife called for help.

    The three police who responded needed to disarm him in order for the fire department to transport him to a mental health facility. When he refused to put down the knife, the police attempted to use their taser. The taser allegedly failed so the police opened fire and killed the man.

    Would an independent review panel be able to ask why when the taser allegedly failed the police had no other procedures than to open fire with guns?

    Would an independent review panel ask why three fit police officers trained in the unarmed martial arts were unable to disarm a wounded suicidal 60 year old without killing him?

    Whatever happened to police administering a short sharp hit with a baton to the hand, arm, or wrist holding the kitchen knife? The bruises or fractures from that will heal unlike multiple gunshots to the chest.

    Why couldn’t the three officers have donned body armor, face masks, and riot shields to rush the man?

    Our firefighters daily risk harm to themselves to perform their duties. They do not refrain from fighting a fire because they might get hurt or dynamite a burning building to extinguish the fire because other means of putting out the fire might cause them harm.

    Yet police procedures seem to imply that police are never to risk harm to themselves such as a cut from a kitchen knife while subduing a suicidal wounded 60 year old. Would the risk of harm really be unreasonable for a police officer with body armor which is resistant to knives, a face mask, and a riot shield?

    Will an independent review panel be able to ask when will the police see their responsibility to protect the community from harm includes protecting people who’ve taken themselves “hostage” from harming themselves?

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