Soglin open to different reviews of officer-involved shootings - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Soglin opens door to different reviews of officer-involved shootings

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Amidst continued calls from community members for independent review of last fall's fatal shooting of Madison musician Paul Heenan by a police officer, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin says he's open to removing Madison Police staff members from investigating such episodes.

"I'm certainly receptive to using an outside agency to examine officer-involved shootings," Soglin said Tuesday during a city hall news conference.

Soglin said he envisions a different law enforcement agency stepping in to conduct the investigation now carried out by the Madison Police department itself.

Police Chief Wray has determined Officer Stephen Heimsness was justified in using deadly force when he shot the unarmed Heenan Nov. 9, 2012. Heimsness was responding to a burglary call, and Heenan grappled with Heimsness. There was no burglary, as Heenan had drunkenly entered the wrong home in his Baldwin Street neighborhood.

Advocates for more scrutiny of the encounter have said a review committee with citizen input should be considered when officers fatally shoot suspects.  In a January memo to Soglin, city attorney Michael May wrote such an approach was possible.

"I think it is very likely...statutes allow the Mayor or Council or both to establish some sort of position or body to independently review actions of the police chief or the police department," May wrote.

May wrote such an advisory review approach was being carried out in cities such as Eugene, Oregon and Knoxville, Tennessee.

Soglin declined to elaborate on the possibility of a review as outlined by May.

Soglin called the Heenan shooting one of the most tragic events during his mayoral career spanning four decades, but said he's choosing to refrain from most comment, because Heimsness is the still the subject of three, separate internal investigations. Wray has said fellow police staff members lodged complaints about Heimsness shortly before, and then after the officer-involved shooting.

But sources have told 27 News one of the complaints involve Heimsness' actions as far back as 2008.

27 News asked Soglin if he expected Madison police staff members to promptly report any alleged violations of department policies. "I assume than any Madison police officer who witnesses any department rule or regulation (violation), would make note of it," Soglin said. Wray has yet to respond to a request for comment from 27 News on the lag in reporting Heimsness' alleged violation.

Heimsness remains on paid leave.

While Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne has ruled Heimsness committed no crimes, a separate investigation was initiated last month by the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department into whether Heimsness violated Heenan's civil rights with the use of force. U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil for the Western District's spokesperson told 27 News the probe continues. 

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