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Lawmaker wants mandate for officer-involved shooting investigations

Published On: Feb 19 2013 03:18:09 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2013 08:12:58 AM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin says he's open to considering a new procedure for investigating officer-involved shootings.

Soglin answered questions from WISC-TV for the first time Tuesday about the investigation into a November shooting death at the hands of a Madison police officer.

His comments came as a Republican state lawmaker starts a legislative effort to take investigative power away from an involved officer's department after a shooting.

Soglin called a news conference to "correct misconceptions perpetuated in a recent news report," according to a release from the mayor’s office.

WISC-TV aired a story Monday about procedures used in Knoxville, Tenn. to review police shootings. Soglin declined comment in the story in an on-camera interview Monday.

In a phone call with WISC-TV later, he reiterated an earlier press release saying he was "receptive" to independent reviews when it came to other law enforcement agencies conducting investigations.

Soglin said Tuesday he was open to changes to the procedures for reviewing police shootings as long as they were allowed under state statutes.

"I said that I would comment when the three pending investigations are completed. That was not accurately portrayed in the newscast," Soglin said.

Officer Stephen Heimsness is the subject of three internal investigations of conduct that occurred before his involvement in the Nov. 9 shooting of Paul Heenan, according to the police department.

Heimsness was cleared of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting, and Chief Noble Wray has said the additional probes are not related to the shooting.

Soglin declined to reveal why the three pending investigations are keeping him from commenting.

He would not say whether he supported a review panel such as the one Knoxville uses, and said he didn't know enough to comment about the legislative efforts of Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay.

Bies said he is working on a bill to be introduced this fall that would create a statewide mandate for how officer-involved shootings are investigated.

"I think the perception thing comes in, especially when you have one agency investigating themselves," said Bies, a 30-year veteran of the Door County Sheriff's Department. "You've got to have some independence."

Amelia and Nathan Royko Maurer, Paul Heenan's former roommates, said they will continue to fight to have police reopen their friend's case.

They said the Heenan case and all other police shootings should get independent review, even if it takes an effort at the Capitol to make it happen.

"If there wasn't a problem, there'd be no reason to change the state statutes," Amelia Royko Maurer said. "(Police) know that, the mayor knows that, we know that, so we're not going to stop."

Wray has repeatedly said he's open to options on how to handle investigations in the future, although he's said the Heenan case doesn't need further review.

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