Mayor Paul Soglin said Tuesday he would not offer his thoughts on anything regarding the Nov. 9 officer-involved shooting of Paul Heenan until the three ongoing investigations of Madison police officer Stephen Heimsness are completed.
Soglin called for a press conference in response to a WISC report, which he said inaccurately reported his current stance on the matter.
The report compared the steps that police departments in Madison and Knoxville, Tennessee take in the aftermath of officer-involved shootings and said Soglin had no comment. At the press conference, the mayor reiterated he is "receptive" to changing how inquiries into of police-involved shootings are handled in the city, specifically by using an outside agency to conduct an investigation.
That appears to be as far as Soglin is willing to go in expressing his position on the shooting and the surrounding controversy. He declined to comment on about a half-dozen other questions at the press conference.
Friends and family have repeatedly called for an outside investigation after police and the Dane County District Attorney cleared Heimsness of all wrongdoing. Many have questioned the police's impartiality and transparency.
The three pending investigations revolve around Heimsness' behavior prior to the shooting -- only one of which came to the department's attention beforehand. Once completed, Soglin said he is prepared to offer more thoughts.
"It's my responsibility to make sure that these investigations are not in anyway influenced by my opinions or feelings," Soglin said. "It has not been easy for me to remain silent."
At least one member of the community has been disappointed with Soglin's silence on the shooting. Before a speech on the shooting by dharma teacher Cheri Maples on Feb. 5, Cliff Hammer, a friend of Heenan's, said he "would have liked a little more leadership on his part."
WISC's report described a Knoxville citizens' panel, which reviews all officer-involved episodes. Madison's Police and Fire Commission, composed of five citizens, is the ultimate authority on firing police officers and firefighters, but it is not in a position to conduct investigations, according to Soglin.
He said any changes to how criminal investigations are handled would require change in state law. State Representative Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) told Wisconsin Public Radio he is prepared to support a bill reforming independent reviews.