In more than 25 years, no Milwaukee County inquest jury has recommended criminal charges against a police officer involved in a fatal shooting or in-custody death.
From the time he took office in 2007 until last month, District Attorney John Chisholm had never ordered an inquest – largely because he didn’t want to give families false hope that officers would be charged.
Last fall, when Chisholm first reviewed the July 2011 death of Derek Williams in Milwaukee police custody, he employed the same philosophy: He met with Williams’ family members and their attorneys, showed them the squad video that captured Williams’ pleas for help and struggle to breathe, and explained why he believed the officers involved acted professionally and in accordance with the law. He would not give them a copy of the video.
And he refused to call for an inquest.
But now, after a revised finding from the medical examiner and a public outcry, he’s changed his mind.
“There are some cases where a public inquest is appropriate, and this is one of those cases,” Chisholm said last week. “There was a change in the medical finding and there needs to be public scrutiny of the entire process, and I do not have a problem with that.”