REQUIRE AN UNBIASED POLICE REVIEW PROCESS
WHY THIS MATTERS
On July 7, 2012, Keenan Smith was tased by a Kenosha police officer. This police officer stated in his official police report that Smith and another man were actively fighting in the middle of the street, "hitting each other with fists." This same officer also reported that Smith "squared up" to him in preparation to fight him and this action was what motivated the officer to deploy his taser.
However, the police dash-cam video severely contradicts the officer’s report. When this contradiction of facts was brought to the attention of the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission, it directed Police Chief Morrissey to review the tasing incident and submit a report. Chief Morrissey complied by ordering internal as well as independent external reviews of the incident.
However emails from Chief Morrissey to the “independent” reviewers reveal that Chief Morrissey:
- Requested changes to the reviewers' report
- Requested secrecy of his communications with the reviewers
- Purposely avoided Wisconsin Public Record laws by using his personal cell phone and email to communicate with the reviewers
Open public records are vitally important because they allow the public direct access to the official activities and communications of its public officials, such as the Chief of Police. Actively evading open records by a public official is a serious departure from the ethical standards essential for good government.
However, despite the fact that Chief Morrissey used his personal cell phone and email to conduct public business, the public—i.e. the Bell family, was still entitled to review those emails and phone records through Wisconsin’s Public Record laws.
Ultimately the commission unanimously accepted Morrissey’s report that the officer acted appropriately, and the officer was not disciplined.
The Bell family believes that Chief Morrissey’s actions regarding the Keenan Smith tasing and its review process is indicative of a long-standing culture at the Kenosha Police Department. As Michael M. Bell said, "If Chief Morrissey is willing to go to these lengths to affect a Tasing Review, imagine the intellectual and financial resources used by his department to cover up my son’s death."
The Keenan Smith incident was included in a patterns-and-practice investigation commissioned by the Bell family and sent to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney. That investigation also covered the fatal shooting of Michael E. Bell. The Bell family claims that the Kenosha Police Department’s investigation and defense of the Bell shooting, as well as other incidents, included multiple obstruction-of-justice violations.
You can make up your own mind on the Keenan Smith tasing incident based on the evidence and facts. You are encouraged to read Chief Morrissey’s emails, Investigative Consultant Ira Robin’s reports, Chief Morrissey’s report, the incident reviews, and the officers’ reports. You can also view the squad car dash-cam video of the actual tasing.
What You Can Do
To support a federal investigation of the Kenosha Police Department, contact:
U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle
517 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 530
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Stating a long-standing principle, the Wisconsin Supreme Court wrote, "The public has a particularly strong interest in being informed about public officials who have been ‘derelict in [their] duty…’ " When exposing such misconduct, "the fact that reputations may be damaged would not outweigh the benefit to the public interest in obtaining inspection."