Common Council approves legislation to change procedure re: in-custody deaths

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's Common Council Tuesday, October 23rd approved a resolution supporting legislation that would require new Medical Examiner polices relating to deaths occurring while individuals are in the hands of law enforcement.

Last week, a Milwaukee County Board committee passed a resolution creating a new policy for all police-involved deaths, including who has the final say on the cause of death.

If approved by the County Board, the County legislation directs the chief medical examiner and the County corporation counsel to study policy changes in cases of in-custody deaths and make recommendations in January 2013 about implementation of policy changes.

The measure must be approved by the full Milwaukee County Board.

“There is still some work to be done for the County legislation to be passed, but I am pleased by the show of support by my colleagues and I am optimistic the County Board will approve the file on November 1st,” Alderwoman Milele Coggs said.

Several members of the Council met with Medical Examiner Dr. Brian L. Peterson on September 28 to discuss the in-custody death last year of Derek Williams.

The ME initially ruled that Williams died of natural causes, but then – after months of inquiries and requests by family and media, and following the release of video evidence – revised the cause of death finding to “homicide.”

Following that meeting, Council members urged County leaders to use the legislative process to codify policy changes to prevent missteps from happening again in the case of a person who dies in the custody of police or as a result of the actions of police personnel.

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