Lawmakers to introduce bill requiring more police training after Williams' death

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn sat down with FOX6 for an exclusive interview Wednesday, September 26th, where he discussed the recently-announced inquest into the death of 22-year-old Derek Williams. Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also sounded off on the case -- saying they want to make sure something like this never happens again.

Williams died while in police custody in July of 2011. On Monday, Milwaukee’s District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn announced an inquest into Williams’ death, after an amended Medical Examiner’s report changed Williams’ cause of death from Sickle cell trait to homicide (death at the hands of another).

In July 2011, Milwaukee police say they chased Williams, who was wearing a mask, near Center and Holton. The officers took him into custody and placed him inside their squad car. That’s when police say Williams passed out in the back seat, and was not breathing.

Dashcam video shows Williams apparently struggling to breathe while under arrest for robbery. Not long after this, Williams was pronounced dead. Officers attempted to revive Williams, but were unsuccessful.

Chief Flynn and his department have been under public scrutiny since the Medical Examiner's report was amended and the dashcam video was released.

"There is no margin for error in the public consciousness. (The Medical Examiner) has adjusted the findings to say that this Sickle cell trait, resulting in death, had to have been triggered by some sort of human intervention," Chief Flynn said.

State Senator Lena Taylor (D - Milwaukee) says its the dashcam video showing Williams struggling to breathe in the back of a squad car that has motivated her and other lawmakers to push for changes within the Milwaukee Police Department.

"I don't want that to be our legacy for this city or for our police department. When someone says that they are medically in distress, we expect law enforcement to take that seriously," Taylor said.

Taylor plans to re-introduce bi-partisan legislation mandating additional training for officers statewide in recognizing health conditions and cultural differences while making arrests.

"For example, the signs of someone having asthma or breathing issues. You'll be able to know that to listen for, what to look for in their chest or how to learn their breathing," Taylor said.

Three years ago the bill had bi-partisan sponsors and support, but was never scheduled for a floor vote.

Chief Flynn said he isn't shooting down this proposal.

"I recognize there is an extraordinary burden on public officials right now to be seen to be doing something in reaction to the incident involving the death of our prisoner, so I'm not gonna gainsay any efforts on any level. I think we're dealing with people with goodwill," Chief Flynn said.

Chief Flynn has invited lawmakers to come to the Police Academy and identify any possible gaps in training.

"Obviously I'm not going to turn down an opportunity to engage in more training -- provided we're able to do it in a cost effective manner," Chief Flynn said.

Taylor and her co-sponsor, Assembly Republican Garey Bies plan to put the bill forward as soon as session resumes in January.

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