City may explore options for further investigation of police actions

2013-01-11T10:50:00Z City may explore options for further investigation of police actionsSANDY CULLEN | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6137

Mayor Paul Soglin is not considering other options for investigating actions by police in the wake of the fatal shooting of Paul Heenan, his spokeswoman said Friday.

City Attorney Michael May said Thursday that Soglin asked him to prepare an analysis of legal options for investigating police actions, including the Heenan shooting, in response to community requests.

Soglin’s spokeswoman Katie Crawley said Soglin asked for a report from May in response to inquiries from residents, but he is not personally looking at other investigative options, but just responding to constituents.

Soglin was out of town and unavailable for comment Thursday, spokeswoman Katie Crawley said.

A Police Department internal investigation, which was monitored by a Dane County sheriff's lieutenant and reviewed by the state Department of Justice, as well as a review by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, cleared Officer Stephen Heimsness in the Nov. 9 shooting of Heenan.

Those inquiries found that Heenan, a 30-year-old local musician, was intoxicated when he entered a neighbor's home at about 2:45 a.m., struggled with the homeowner who was attempting to walk him to his own residence, ignored Heimsness' commands to get down on the ground, then advanced at and struggled with the officer, who believed Heenan was trying to get his gun and feared his life was in danger.

But Heenan's family members and neighbors have questioned the impartiality of the Police Department's investigations and the reviews by other agencies.

Family members are planning a protest rally at noon Saturday in front of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Blvd.

In an email to neighborhood groups Thursday, Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, who represents the area where the shooting took place, wrote that with the completion of the district attorney's and Police Department's investigations, "we are now moving into the public review phase of the shooting."

Rummel said she is working with neighbors and others with experience in restorative justice to organize a meeting where police, District Attorney's Office representatives and neighbors can discuss the events leading to the shooting, examine police policies and training, review the role of the Police and Fire Commission, and "explore next steps to start to repair the harm done to our community."

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray has said he believes his department conducted a fair investigation of the Heenan shooting, but he also is open to other investigative models, said spokesman Joel DeSpain.

Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at UW-Madison, said most police departments conduct their own internal investigations, but some use other models in which outside agencies take over investigations as soon as possible.

Because the department involved in an officer-involved shooting is usually the first on the scene, it typically must begin the investigation by securing the scene, interviewing witnesses and preserving evidence, Scott said.

Because of its size and level of expertise, departments such as Madison may be better able to conduct their own investigations than other, smaller agencies nearby that might not have adequate resources, he said.

But departments might need to consider turning their investigations over to an outside agency to maintain community trust, Scott said.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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