Before the dead were even buried, with families, survivors and the community still mourning, segments of the media, lawmakers and many in the public at large went in search of someone to blame.

Many wanted to know what went wrong in the case of Darrell Brooks, the man charged with driving an SUV through the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Nov. 21, killing six and injuring at least 60.

By all accounts, it was a horrific and heinous crime. It not only devastated a community, but shocked a state and nation.

Within hours of the incident, it was learned that Brooks at the time of the parade assault was out on bond after posting $1,000 bail on a felony charge stemming from an incident in which he reportedly ran over his girlfriend—with the same vehicle used in the parade attack.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and his office were quick to own up to what Chisholm acknowledged was a mistake. An overworked and inexperienced assistant DA had recommended the low bond in the domestic violence case and a court commissioner approved it.

In the wake of the acknowledgment, some in the state Legislature have called for Gov. Tony Evers to dismiss Chisholm.

Should there be repercussions? Perhaps. No doubt the assistant DA has received some remedial training and the court commissioner who set the bail has been reassigned due to safety concerns.

As for Chisholm, no doubt he is aware of the sentiments of some that he should resign. That’s his call, of course. But a forced removal of office is up to voters, who have the option to petition for a recall or to wait and see if Chisholm decides to run for reelection.

For the immediate coming days and weeks, we suggest all angered by the incident allow time for the Waukesha community to mourn and to let the families of the deceased and injured navigate the holidays. But once everyone is back at work after the new year, let the legal system do its job and prosecute Brooks to the fullest extent possible.

Then it’s the Legislature that needs to get to work by introducing and adopting a law that requires prosecutors and court officials to consider lethality assessments when setting bail in domestic abuse cases.

According to Safe Futures, a Connecticut victim advocacy service, the Lethality Assessment Program is a partnership with law enforcement that uses assessment strategies to better serve domestic violence victims. Trained police on the scene of a domestic violence call assess a victim’s risk for serious injury or death and can then immediately link those at greatest risk to Safe Futures for counseling and services.

The assessment includes a set of scored questions. In the case of Brooks, the victim in the Milwaukee County incident had provided answers to a Milwaukee police officer filling out a lethality assessment that clearly indicated Brooks remained a serious risk for the victim.

According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, use of the Lethality Assessment Program has spread across Wisconsin, but it is not universal. Its use is rare because it is not required to be considered under state law, Sara Krall, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin’s homicide prevention program director, told reporter Ashley Luthern.

Wisconsin legislators need to change that. We suggest they follow the lead of their counterparts in Arizona, where since 2015 state law has required court officials to consider risk or lethality assessments when setting bail in domestic violence cases.

Will that stem every future tragedy resulting from domestic abuse? No, but having the assessment adopted into law will help to make sure judges and court commissioners use a tool to help keep the most violent and obsessive offenders in custody as long as possible until their cases can be adjudicated.


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