Finance committee OKs more agents to probe police killings

Finance committee OKs more agents to probe police killings

The Department of Justice will get four new positions to investigate police shootings under a plan expected to be adopted by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

A new law that went into effect last year requires outside agencies to probe officer-involved deaths. DOJ officials said theirs has become the go-to agency for local police who now need outside investigators. A Legislative Fiscal Bureau report showed DOJ has investigated 12 deaths since the law took effect in April 2014. That’s up 71 percent from seven death investigations in 2013.

“We just want to give the public an assurance that when these shootings take place there will be an independent investigation to allow the public to have the confidence in public safety in Wisconsin, that’s our number one goal,” Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said.

DOJ asked Gov. Scott Walker to create five new positions in his state budget proposal to handle such probes. Walker didn’t address the request in his spending plan. The finance committee on Thursday gave the agency four positions funded by about $600,000 from criminal penalty surcharges over the next two years.

The co-author of the police shootings bill, Rep. Chris Taylor, D- Madison, said she felt all five positions should have been funded because of the importance of the investigations.

“Obviously here in Dane County we had a horrible tragedy that we’re waiting for an outcome with the Tony Robinson shooting, and I can tell you I think that law gave us some breathing space here in my own city and helped us tremendously,” Taylor said.

DOJ officials said they are grateful for the approval of the new positions to handle their increased workload. The four positions will be made up of three investigators and one person to handle records requests.