In April, Wisconsin became the first state to require that fatal shootings by police be investigated by at least two investigators outside of the agency that employs the officer in question.
In 129 years, no police officer in the state had been found by a review panel to be at fault for killing anyone*, and advocates who fought for the law believed more officers would be brought to justice if they weren’t judged by their own.
Since it was enacted, Wisconsin police have shot and killed six people. How is the new law playing out?
Of those six shootings, four of the investigations have been completed, and in keeping with Wisconsin tradition, all the officers were cleared of wrongdoing. But only one of the investigations – the unfinished probe into the shooting of Dontre Hamilton – has sparked any controversy.
The law is only five months old and the sample size here is extremely small, but one trend has become very clear: In five of the six cases, the victim sufferred a mental illness.
To better understand the impact of the law, we’ve outlined the six victims, the circumstances of their deaths and the statuses of the investigations.