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Lawmakers call for domestic violence investigation

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UNDATED (WSAU)   A dozen Wisconsin legislators are demanding an independent investigation of the Brown Deer Police Department, and its policies for dealing with domestic violence. But Milwaukee County’s chief prosecutor defends the department, saying it’s generally aggressive in dealing with domestic cases.

Ten Democrats and two Republicans called Police Chief Steve Rinzel to task yesterday. They said his officers let mass murderer Radcliffe Haughton off the hook in previous domestic incidents. Haughton killed his estranged wife and two others at a Brookfield spa 11 days ago before killing himself.

The lawmakers, led by Assembly Democrat Terese Berceau of Madison, accused Brown Deer Police of not following the state’s mandatory arrest law on at least two occasions when they believed Haughton should have been taken in. Also, the legislators say the chief was wrong to blame the victim, when he said Zina Haughton did not cooperate with police in those cases. And they said the state needs to get involved because Brown Deer’s police commission has kept its distance. Village officials have not commented on the lawmakers’ concerns. Most criticism has involved a 2011 police standoff in which Haughton apparently pointed a gun at his wife. The standoff ended with no arrests. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said the case presents some “complicated questions.” In general, Chisholm said he’s impressed by the way Brown Deer Police investigate domestic violence complaints.

Earlier this week Chief Rinzel asked the state Justice Department to provide additional training to officers in handling domestic disturbances.

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