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Bring in the Feds

Issue of the Week

Aug. 30, 2016
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We cheered when state Rep. David Bowen and Rep. Evan Goyke, both Milwaukee Democrats, asked the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation into the Aug. 13 shooting of Sylville Smith by a Milwaukee Police Department officer in the Sherman Park neighborhood. 

The lawmakers say the feds need to come into to ensure that the investigation is independent and can be trusted by the public.

Two years ago, legislators passed a law requiring the state Department of Justice to take over every investigation involving an officer-involved shooting so that police departments aren’t investigating their own officers. Gov. Scott Walker and state Attorney General Brad Schimel tout the bipartisan law as a national model whenever there’s a police shooting in Wisconsin, which happens all too frequently.

That said, Schimel acknowledged last week that two ex-MPD officers are investigating the shooting of Smith, which is allowed under the law but goes against the spirit of it and undermines public confidence. After all, if they are investigating former co-workers—and possibly friends—how can the public trust the results of their inquiry? 

Bowen and Goyke want federal investigators to step in so that the public is assured that the investigation is independent and impartial. 

We are urging U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to accept Bowen and Goyke’s request and take over the investigation into the Smith shooting. We’re also asking lawmakers to close this loophole in the next session so that the public can feel confident about the results of any officer-involved shooting investigation.

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