Ismael R. Ozanne
Dane County District Attorney
Dane County Courthouse
215 S. Hamilton St. #3000
Madison WI 53703-3297
Dear Chief Wray and District Attorney Ozanne:
My name is Emily Heenan. On November 9th, 2012, my brother Paul Heenan was shot and killed by a Madison police officer. Although I am still grieving, I believe it is time that I speak and to share some of my thoughts and concerns with the entire community.
I have been given to understand that the District Attorney’s office will soon render a decision on whether criminal charges will be filed in this case, and the Police Department will also have to decide whether to pursue disciplinary action against the officer involved. To my knowledge, never in the history of the Madison Police Department has the District Attorney decided a police officer’s decision to use lethal force was worthy of prosecution. It is my hope that the District Attorney’s review of this particular case is free of all political influences, financial considerations, and historical biases.
The lack of transparent facts in this case represents a problem for our community. The rate at which facts were revealed to the media by the MPD allowed a certain amount of slander to be spread about my brother. The MPD claimed that a full investigation was needed to establish facts which were actually already apparent at the scene. For instance, it was not until several days after the shooting that the MPD confirmed to the media that my brother was not a burglar. That fact was known to the first officers on the scene who talked to the neighbor trying to take my brother home, Kevin O’Malley. The time that it took to clear his name should give all of us cause for reflection. We want an efficient, honest and forthcoming police department, not one that manipulates the release of facts in order to protect its public image. It is my sincere hope that the communication procedures currently followed by the MPD are adjusted in order to remedy this issue.
As a community, I believe we need to ask these hard questions. Does the MPD have a perfect record in justified use of lethal force resulting in death, or do the powers that be just have a policy of giving the police officers involved the benefit of the doubt? Many of us have made mistakes without meaning harm, whether or not it was after a long day. We all make mistakes in one form or another. But the death of my brother, probably the most harmless person to walk the streets of Madison in this century, wasn’t just a mistake; it was a failure of the officer involved and, in particular, of his ability to make safe and quick decisions. It was a failure of his training and the policies associated with that training. Finally, the media should have been prepared to ask questions for our community, not just about this one tragedy, but about the procedures and policies of the MPD that may have contributed to it.
In order to rebuild the trust between the community and the MPD, it seems to me that all relevant questions must be answered and several steps must be taken. The MPD must unequivocally demonstrate that it is doing its absolute best to ensure that all of its police officers work to fulfill the MPD mission and uphold all of its core values at all times. I hope that the office of the District Attorney also understands that whatever decision is made, it will greatly impact the community and the public’s perception of the MPD. People should not have to be afraid to call the police, but if the decisions made in this case send the message that what happened to my brother was appropriate and proper in the eyes of our law enforcement authorities, many members of our community will never feel safe asking the police for help again.
I feel that it is my duty to speak out so that the community and the media hear me loud and clear. The pain and awkwardness of a criminal prosecution of, and disciplinary proceedings against, the officer involved will be worth it ten times over if our city is made safer by it.
Emily M Heenan