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New Wisconsin Law Prevents Some Police Self Investigations

Posted on Jan 23, 2014

Back in 2004, unarmed Michael Bell Jr. was shot and killed during a traffic stop by Kenosha Police, whose internal affairs investigation resulted in no charges. Almost ten years later, his father Michael Bell Sr. is pushing for new legislation that would prevent police from investigating themselves when fatalities occur.

Michael Bell Sr. claims Kenosha Police used excessive force when they killed his son and that their sworn statements are contradicted by the forensic evidence. He also contends that they had no justifiable reason to pull his son over in the first place.

In the aftermath of Bell Jr.’s death, Kenosha Police conducted their own investigation and cleared themselves of any wrongdoing in just two days. According to Michael Bell Sr., therein lies the problem: police investigating themselves.

The father believes Kenosha Police unlawfully murdered his son and is actively campaigning to make sure it doesn’t happen again to another family. Although Kenosha Police admitted no wrongdoing, Bell Sr. still received a $1.75 million civil rights lawsuit settlement and he has spent more than $850,000 on billboards, newspaper ads and commercials questioning the validity of current police fatality investigation procedures.

“Police just investigating themselves have an institutional stake in the process so therefore there is a built-in bias. They are looking out for themselves,” Bell Sr. told USA Today.

New Law Requires Change in Police Department Self-Investigations After a Fatality

With this in mind, Bell Sr. is fervently supporting Wisconsin Assembly Bill 409 which would mandate investigations be conducted by different police departments. The bill would also create a five-member review board appointed by the attorney general comprised of a retired or reserve judge, a former police chief or sheriff, an assistant attorney general, a criminal law or justice professor and a former district attorney.

In 2014, the Wisconsin State Assembly voted in favor of Assembly Bill 409. The Wisconsin Senate also approved the bill without dissent and in April 2014 Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 409 into law.

Since many states deal with this same issue, the ultimate goal is to create a process that would resolve a widespread problem throughout the country. Whether or not Bill 409 becomes the ultimate solution remains to be seen, but Bell Sr. doesn’t plan on stopping his efforts until the process is fixed.