Six officer-involved shootings this year; three fatal: Does the DOJ have enough funding to investigate them?

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MADISON (WITI) -- A bill passed in April 2014 requires an outside agency investigate officer-involved or in-custody deaths. The law requires "an investigation that is conducted by at least two investigators...neither of whom is employed by a law enforcement agency that employs a law enforcement officer involved in the officer-involved death." After that, investigators must provide a report to the district attorney. If the district attorney determines there are no grounds to prosecute the officer involved, then the investigators must release their report to the public. Since January 5th, 2015, there have been six officer-involved shootings statewide. Three of those have been fatal -- one in Milwaukee, one in Green Bay and now one in Madison.

Per state law, the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation is handling these shooting investigations.

"These cases require massive investigation," Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) said.

Senator Taylor was one of the major proponents of the law requiring an outside agency investigate officer-involved deaths.

Tony Robinson

Tony Robinson

19-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed by Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny last Friday, March 6th.

The incident started when authorities got a call that a male was yelling and jumping in front of cars, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said.

A little later, the dispatcher says, “Apparently Tony hit one of his friends. No weapons seen.”Dispatchers identified him as Tony Robinson, according to 911 audio obtained by WKOW.

About four minutes later, the dispatcher says, “I got another call for the same suspect at [the same address]. He tried to strangle another patron.”

About 30 seconds later, an unidentified officer says, “Shots fired, shots fired.”

Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny

Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny

When Officer Matt Kenny went to the apartment, he heard some commotion and forced his way in, Koval said.

“Once inside the home the subject involved in this incident — the same one allegedly out in traffic and that had battered someone — assaulted my officer,” Koval said.

Koval says Robinson attacked Officer Kenny.

After that, according to the chief, “The officer did draw his revolver and subsequently shot the subject.”

Robinson did have a criminal history. Wisconsin Circuit Court documents indicate Robinson pleaded guilty in December to an armed robbery that occurred last April.

The deadly confrontation has made Madison the latest epicenter of protests.

Days before this latest officer-shooting, Senator Taylor says the Department of Justice came to the Joint Finance Committee asking for help.

"I think it`s unfair to expect the Department of Justice can do an adequate job without the funding.  The Governor needs to be responsible and fund it," Senator Taylor said.

Senator Taylor says the DOJ asked the committee to reinstate its request for five new positions at a cost of around $740,000. These are positions that would assist with officer-involved shooting investigations. Taylor says they were cut from Governor Scott Walker's $68 billion two-year budget proposal.

"How irresponsible is it to put the legislation in place but not staff for the Attorney General to do the work?" Senator Taylor said.

FOX6 News asked law enforcement expert Brian Dorow to explain the DOJ manpower involved in cases like the shooting of Dontre Hamilton. 31-year-old Hamilton was shot and killed by former Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney. Manney was terminated from MPD for his handling of Hamilton that day.

"A minimum of two investigators are involved to conduct this independent review of the officer-involved shooting," Dorow said.

The investigation can take weeks -- even months to complete.

"They are labor intensive. A lot of follow-up.  You have collection of evidence, interviewing witnesses," Dorow said.

FOX6 News reached out to Governor Walker's office for comment on this story. A spokeswoman shared documents that showed the DOJ didn't anticipate a fiscal impact when the law regarding the investigation of officer-involved shootings. She says "if the DOJ feels as though additional funding is necessary to address these cases. We are willing to work with them and the state Legislature to ensure adequate funding."

The Department of Justice declined to comment on this story.

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