State Democrats want jail deaths treated in same manner as deaths involving police officers

MADISON -- Milwaukee Democrats are launching a new effort in Madison to take investigations of jail deaths away from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. They say jail deaths should be treated the same as deaths involving police officers.

State Rep. David Crowley (D - Milwaukee)

The Milwaukee Democrats are concerned about in-custody deaths in 2016 at the Milwaukee County Jail. Sheriff Clarke has handed one of them, a dehydration case, over to the Milwaukee County District Attorney. He is handling the other three internally.

"For the fact that this has been over eight months, nine months, and the grieving families have not gotten anything -- that's a problem," said State Rep. David Crowley (D - Milwaukee).

In 2014, Wisconsin was the first state to require independent investigations of all deaths involving police officers. The Democrats' bill would force two outside agencies to conduct investigations of jail deaths. It would also allow investigations of jail deaths that have happened since 2014.

Milwaukee County Jail

"I'm sure that bill would probably come to my committee," said State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R - Racine).

State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R - Racine)

Wanggaard, a Republican, learned of the bill from FOX6 News.

"Because even though they're an alleged offender, or it's someone who's been sentenced who's staying there, they still have a responsibility to keep that person safe," Wanggaard said.

The Democrats say they will circulate the bill this week, looking for support from both parties.

State Sen. Chris Larson (D - Milwaukee)

"Sheriff Clarke registers as a Democrat, so that shouldn't make anybody hesitate to jump on from the Republican standpoint," said State Sen. Chris Larson (D - Milwaukee).

A second development unfolded on Wednesday, March 29th: Attorney General Brad Schimel said he will investigate the Milwaukee County Jail deaths if Sheriff Clarke asks him to. But so far, the sheriff has not asked.

FOX6 News has requested comment from the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office -- and have not heard back.

Milwaukee County Jail