Improving Trust in Wisconsin

untitledI am always looking for positive trends in police improvement. This week, I found it in my own state when a new bill requiring the outside investigation of police-involved shootings became law. It will greatly improve the way police shootings will now be investigated and, I expect, improve trust of police.

In the past, departments in Wisconsin’s larger cities (where most of these shootings occur) investigated their own officers. Because of this, many citizens in those cities have the perception that police investigations protect their own.

The new law (see my blog on the subject) will require a police-involved shooting investigatory team to have two investigators from outside the agency involved. One of the outside officers serves as the lead investigator.

On a very positive note for this improvement (and professionalization), the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) favored the bill because they realized it would help build trust among citizens. This is good thinking from a statewide association that represents many of Wisconsin’s police. The president of the WPPA, Jim Palmer, stated in a recent (March, 2014) press release.

“We’ve supported a positive reform that requires agencies to call in outside departments to investigate these matters, we think it goes a long way facilitating and improving the level of trust that the public has in what law enforcement does and that’s fundamentally important.”

It turns out that the WPPA conducted a statewide poll in which they found 81% of those polled support the new law. It also showed 60% of Wisconsin’s citizens believe when officers use firearms, they are justified. The new law could help raise this percentage.

I have to say, Good work all around.  A fine collaboration between police, legislators on both sides of the aisle, concerned citizens, family members who have been tragically impacted through a police-involved shooting, and especially the tireless work of Michael Bell and his family who were awarded a $1.75 million settlement after their son was shot and killed by Kenosha police. Bell and his family used that money to successfully improve the way Wisconsin police departments investigate shootings involving their own officers.

Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker signed AB 409 into law.



  1. Wisconsin may have a reputation as “progressive” but certainly not in the investigation of citical incidents involving the police. Best practive for openness and transparency has been the use of multi agency task forces to conduct these investigations. I have personally contacted incoming Madison Police Chief Mike Koval, sharing three important chartering documents with him. I have also email our mid-size agency representaive for IACP CHief Gordon Ramsay of Duluth MN PD asking him to share the same docs with other Wisconsin Chiefs.


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