Sponsor of Police Custody Death Law Says Law Not Followed in Dontre Hamilton Investigation

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On April 30, 2014, Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) Officer Christopher Manney shot and killed 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. As previously reported here, this tragic incident was the first test of a new Wisconsin law where law enforcement agencies cannot investigate themselves after a death in police custody. Under the law, a team of at least two investigators from an outside agency must investigate in-custody deaths, and then release reports from the investigation to the public if criminal charges are not filed against the law enforcement officers involved. For the shooting of Mr. Hamilton, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“DOJ”) was supposed to conduct the investigation.

According to the sponsor of the new law, however, the law was not followed in the Dontre Hamilton investigation. Former State Assembly member Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay), also a former Door County sheriff’s deputy, said that the DOJ did not lead the investigation. Instead, the MPD did most of the investigating, with the DOJ simply reviewing the MPD reports. In fact, of the 700 pages of records relating to the Hamilton investigation, 600 pages were generated by the MPD. The DOJ reports from the investigation are essentially just summaries of the MPD reports.

“Milwaukee just thinks they’re different from the rest of the state and they just do things their own way, and until somebody makes them accountable, they’re going to continue,” Bies said.

The Milwaukee civil rights lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran are part of the legal team which represents the family of Dontre Hamilton. We will continue to work for justice for Mr. Hamilton and his family. In fact, the DOJ has responded to our request to conduct a federal review of the case. Please continue to follow our Blog for updates on the case.

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