Medical examiner opposes proposed ordinance on police-custody deaths
Jermont Terry reports Video by 620wtmj.comvideo
MILWAUKEE- The death of Derek Williams has prompted the Milwaukee County Board's judiciary committee to propose changes at the medical examiner's office, but the medical examiner's office opposes those plans.
Under a proposed ordinance, any death while in police custody would require the entire Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's team to consult before making a ruling.
This comes after Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Brian Peterson changed the cause of death of Derek Williams from natural causes to a homicide. Williams was a robbery suspect who died in Milwaukee police custody last year after pleading with officers for oxygen.
Milwaukee County Supervisors David Bowen and Russell Stamper co-sponsored the resolution. Like many, they were confused when the medical examiner's office changed Williams' death from natural causes to homicide.
"What happened is why we made policy so it doesn't happen again," says Supervisor Stamper.
"This issue has gone on for far too long and we want to make sure we're doing all we can," argues Supervisor Bowen.
While the idea seems simple, Dr. Peterson argues it could become problematic.
He met with the Milwaukee County Board's judiciary committee after learning the county's intentions of changing how he runs the medical examiner's office.
"The response has already been made, the corrective changes have been made in my office. In fact they were made a couple of weeks ago," says Dr. Peterson.
Dr. Peterson says any high-profile case including police custody deaths now requires a second set of eyes. But under the county's plan, the medical examiner's office would need a peer review and an agreement by the chief medical examiner before a cause of death is made.
Dr. Peterson argued the move could cost the office its accreditation and delay the process.
"And of course in my line of work, timeliness is next to godliness."
The County Board's judiciary committee endorsed further study of the proposed requirements, on a 6-1 vote.
County Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo says he is concerned about these proposed changes.
"With my lack of medical knowledge I don't feel comfortable telling the medical examiner how to do his job," says Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo.
There are no immediate actions from Thursday's vote. The two sides will iron out a few details and meet up again in the next few weeks.