Mayor Paul Soglin is right to ask the city attorney to look at options for more review of the tragic officer involved shooting on the near east side last November.
In that very unusual event, local musician Paul Heenan was shot and killed by a Madison police officer as he struggled with the officer. The Madison police internal investigation and the Dane County District Attorney have concluded that the officer acted within the bounds of his training and he will not be charged in the incident.
Based on what I've read, that seems appropriate. The officer was struggling with a drunk man on a dark street who seemed to be trying to disarm him. If the officer had the luxury that we have of knowing all the details after the fact, he might not have reacted with deadly force. But none of us can put ourselves back in that situation and get a do over.
Still, the case has raised appropriate questions about how and by who officer involved shootings are investigated. Having the police department investigate its own has obvious problems regardless of how much public trust and integrity a given department has -- and the Madison Police Department has deep wells of both community trust and integrity. Ours is among the finest police departments in the nation.
In addition, all district attorneys work closely with police departments. Again here we have an excellent district attorney in Ismael Ozanne, a man of high integrity.
So the issue here is not the people or the culture of the department or the district attorney's office. The question is rather how can we assure the public that deadly force is being used only when absolutely necessary. An independent body, like a small group of retired judges, might be an appropriate review authority to add to the police and DA investigations.
And this incident brings to mind another observation. Here we have a highly trained police officer using deadly force as a last resort only because he believed his own life was in danger. That use of force has now been investigated thoroughly and may be again. And yet, in Wisconsin, we now have concealed carry and the so called "castle doctrine," where untrained individuals can take a life if they feel threatened and be subject to a fraction of the scrutiny that this officer is now getting.
So, should we take a closer look at the Heenan case? Yes. But we also need to address the senseless proliferation of guns in our society, held not by trained professionals but by individuals who should not be entrusted with the use of deadly force.
Have a good weekend.