DA, Chief Flynn Call for Inquest into Death of Prisoner
Highlights from Chief Edward A. Flynn’s remarks to media regarding the in-custody death of a prisoner on July 6, 2011. The video featured here contains the entirety of Chief Flynn’s and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s remarks at a news conference September 24, 2012.
I endorse the decision by the District Attorney to refer the Derek Williams case to a special prosecutor for a public inquest. I encourage a public airing of the facts of this case to answer any questions the community may have relating to the facts of what occurred the night of July 6, 2011.
MPD fully supports this decision by Mr. Chisholm and I pledge the complete cooperation of my department. Additionally, I have spoken with US Attorney James Santelle and have requested his office review and evaluate the MPD investigation into this matter.
We have, from the beginning, since the events of that night, cooperated with the investigation into this incident, starting with when the officers involved provided complete statements to the DA’s investigators.
Since this incident, we have done two things. We have made modifications to our critical incident standard operating procedure, and we have instituted new training in responding to prisoners in medical crisis.
This SOP, recently approved by the Fire & Police Commission, provides a new level of improved and thorough review for critical incidents. It also provides for independent participation and review of the process.
The SOP creates a critical incident review board, comprised of MPD personnel who are training experts. The purpose of this board is for the review of critical incidents, and not for the investigation of them.
The board will evaluate critical incidents and will recommend policy and procedural changes. The goal is to ensure improved training and to see that best practices are being adhered to.
·Training in recognizing and responding to medical distress in prisoners (including symptoms sometimes exhibited by individuals with Sickle Cell trait) is scheduled to be given to every officer as a part of our in-service program. The new training will be provided in the upcoming in-service cycle. Currently, this training is being given to every police recruit in the academy.
As the Medical Examiner’s report states, Mr. Williams had a rare medical condition. Officers are not trained to recognize a rare medical condition in the middle of the night in the back of a squad car. In the future, officers are instructed to err on the side of caution and to summon an ambulance if there is any doubt. For years, officers were trained that if a person could talk, they could breathe.
The department acknowledges that we can always do a better job of training our officers in the myriad of situations they face during their tour of duty.
This situation shows it is important to recognize the difference between stress and medical distress when dealing with prisoners and we have taken steps to do so.