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Bill would establish board for reviewing police-involved deaths

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KENOSHA (WITI) -- Police across Wisconsin could face tighter scrutiny if a proposed bill becomes law. A Door County lawmaker is drafting a bill that would create an independent board to review any police-involved death.

Rep. Garey Bies (R - Sister Bay) will unveil the bill on Thursday, September 5th.

Rep. Bies says multiple incidents, including a couple in southeastern Wisconsin, have led him to believe there should be an independent review of any police-involved death.

Michael Bell of Kenosha says the passage of this bill would mean everything to him.

Bell's son was killed by Kenosha police in 2004, and Bell has since waged a campaign across the state, calling for the creation of a statewide review board to investigate any officer-involved death.

"It's been a lot of sacrifice from our family's point of view and a lot of other people's point of view to get this forward. It can't be law enforcement, just law enforcement because they have an institutional stake in the outcome. It had to be composed of individuals who know about law but don't have an institutional stake in the outcome," Bell said.

Under the bill, a five-member panel would review such incidents.

The state's largest police union says it is aware of the proposal.

"As the state's largest law enforcement group, we believe we have an obligation to maintain an open mind on issues like that," Jim Palmer with the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said.

The board would be composed of a retired or reserve judge, a former sheriff or chief of police, an assistant attorney general, a law or criminal justice professor, and a former prosecutor. This is an area of concern for the police union.

"Obviously, we want people who are in touch with current law enforcement standards, so one of the things we're evaluating and discussing among ourselves is whether or not someone in a retired capacity would satisfy that standard," Palmer said.

Bell says he is open to changes, but says if the bill dies or drastically changes, his billboards will return.

"If it gets watered down a lot, I am prepared to continue bringing attention to the people in Wisconsin," Bell said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice says Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is aware of the bill and plans to give his input to Rep. Bies once he has reviewed the proposal.

The Milwaukee Police Department says it will be "working with the Legislature and law enforcement throughout the state on this bill."