“This bill is the right step:” Missouri copies Wisconsin law on officer-involved shooting investigations

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KENOSHA -- When it comes to deadly police shootings, a Wisconsin law was the first of its kind. Now, it is the blueprint for officials in another Midwestern state who hope the third time is the charm.

In August 2014, the nation watched rioting in Ferguson, Missouri -- prompted by the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.

Riots in Missouri in August 2014

Riots in Missouri in August 2014

Nearly four months before the unrest outside St. Louis, Governor Scott Walker signed a bill making Wisconsin the first state to require outside investigations for deadly officer-involved incidents.

Gov. Walker signs law related to officer-involved shooting investigations

"This bill is the right step in the right direction to protect both the community and to protect law enforcement," police reform activist Michael Bell said.

Proponents argue that ensuring impartial reviews will help restore public trust. That pitch has previously fallen on deaf ears in the Show-Me State.

Michael Bell

Michael Bell

Bell testified last week at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on behalf of the bill's sponsor, State Rep. Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin.) Dogan sponsored the same bill in 2015 and again in 2016. Both times, it went nowhere but Dogan said it's different this time.

"We haven't had any of the police unions endorse it, but we've had progress because they haven't come out and opposed it, which they did the first year I sponsored the bill," Dogan said.

Dogan said another difference is that no one testified against the bill in committee last week.

Michael Bell and Shamed Dogan

Michael Bell and Missouri State Rep. Shamed Dogan

Parts of the Missouri bill read word-for-word like the Wisconsin law. Dogan said he reminds colleagues the bill passed unanimously in Wisconsin.

"The fact this is a bill that was signed into law in Wisconsin, which has a Republican legislature and a highly-respected Republican governor, I think all those things speak in its favor," Dogan said.

Bell, who has advocated for police reform since the 2004 shooting death of his son in Kenosha, said it's not about assigning blame. It's about having an unbiased investigation and making the findings public. The bill requires that if a prosecutor declines to charge the officer(s) involved, a report of the findings must be released. Currently, only Wisconsin and Illinois have such statutes.

Missouri bill on officer-involved shooting investigations

"This takes a look at the true causes and how we fix that by making recommendations that might become training policy in the future," Bell said.

Along those lines, FOX6 News has confirmed the UW-Madison Law School is hosting a conference in May. It will bring together law enforcement groups and experts from other high-hazard professions like those who investigate plane crashes or when someone dies in surgery.

Everyone involved will explain their methods for studying deadly incidents.