“The law that we passed is not perfect:” New push to improve state’s police oversight bill

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KENOSHA (WITI) -- A Ferguson-related protest was held in Kenosha on Tuesday evening, November 25th. One of those in attendance was a man whose son was killed by police 10 years ago. He is Michael Bell -- a man who led the push for a police oversight law in Wisconsin.

As rioters smashed windows and torched businesses in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday night, Bell watched from Kenosha.

"I understand their frustration because they really didn't have any other outlet. But if a law was in place, I think there would've been a little more confidence," said Bell.

Bell's son was killed by Kenosha police in 2004. After getting nearly $2 million in a settlement with the city, Bell launched a campaign for a statewide law that calls for independent reviews of police-involved deaths. Gov. Scott Walker signed such a bill into law this past spring.

But that law wouldn't have changed the way officials operated in Ferguson. An outside agency handled the investigation into Michael Brown's death and evidence from the case has been released to the public. Both are cornerstones of Wisconsin Act 348.

"The law that we passed is not perfect. It's a first attempt to get a more open, transparent, independent process," said State Rep. Chris Taylor, one of the bill's co-sponsors.

Taylor is interested in adding to the bill -- specifically creating a statewide board that would review all investigations before making recommendations to the district attorney -- who decides if the officer will face charges.

"There's no harm in having another set of eyes looking at these situations, particularly when the public is really questioning some of these outcomes and doesn't seem to have the trust," said Taylor.

The independent review panel was in the original draft, but was eventually taken out of the bill. Taylor says she'll revisit the idea when the Legislature convenes in January.

"It needs to be done with people who do not have an institutional stake in the process but are highly credible," said Bell.

Bell was in New Jersey last week. He met with lawmakers who are pursuing a similar police oversight bill in that state.

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Meanwhile, in Racine Tuesday evening, a few dozen people attended a pre-planned presentation at the public library.

Reggie Jackson, chairman of the board of America's Black Holocaust Museum gave a presentation on the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, and some of the people involved.

He says he wasn't surprised by the outcome in Ferguson, just disappointed. He says he understands why he was able to draw a considerable crowd on Tuesday evening.

"I think it's an issue that's touched a lot of people from a lot of different communities and people are really very emotional. People want to express that and get that out of their system and also learn more about why those things happened," Jackson said.

The event has been in the works since Michael Brown was shot in August.

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