Disbanding the Wauwatosa Police Department is a logical solution

Wauwatosa officers confront protesters in the days after the incident at Mensah's house. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)
Wauwatosa officers confront protesters. (Photo by Isiah Holmes)

The Wauwatosa Police Department located in a small, mostly Caucasian suburb of Milwaukee, should be disbanded because of ineffective, aggressive and violent policing in this era when the nation is confronting systemic racism. 

Wauwatosa is separated by one street from Milwaukee, which has the largest population of African Americans and Hispanics in Wisconsin. Milwaukee does not have a mall or many shopping venues, so Mayfair Mall and other stores in Wauwatosa are supported by many Milwaukee citizens.

The small suburban community made national news in 2018 when an African American teenager was stopped while driving home from church with his Caucasian grandmother and her Caucasian friend, had guns pulled on him, and was forced to get on his knees. Police told him he was stopped because it was reported that the car had been involved in a robbery.

In a span of five years, WPD officer Joseph Mensah, who is of African descent, has killed three citizens of color by shooting them multiple times. Mensah did not have a body camera, and all of killings look questionable to many in the public. Mensah’s victims include two African Americans, Jay Anderson and 17-year-old Alvin Cole and Antonio Gonzalez who was Hispanic.

The killings of these citizens were all considered justified with the last decision regarding 17-year-old Alvin Cole released to the public on October 8, 2020.  Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm released his decision close to an election in which he is a candidate with no challenger. 

The family of Alvin Cole had been protesting in Wauwatosa since April of 2020 and Chisholm’s decision motivated them to continue their protests.  

On October 8, 2020, the day of the decision, controversy continued to engulf the WPD. A video showed a violent encounter between family members of Mensah’s victims and police officers. The testimonies of the Cole family, the father of Jacob Blake and other protestors describe an extremely violent and retaliatory Wauwatosa police department on the night in question. There is also video footage with sound showing what happened when the Cole family was stopped by Wauwatosa police. A cell phone in the car continued to record as the Cole family, which includes Alvin Cole’s mother, Tracy Cole and her three young adult daughters were stopped by the WPD and violently taken into custody. Tracy Cole is disabled and walks with a cane. Her harrowing account includes being pulled by her hair, thrown to the ground, punched in her head and all over her body. The video of the arrest includes sound of a taser being used on Tracy Cole. 

Alvin Cole’s sister says that a gun was held to her head and that she was thrown down by several officers who pressed their knees into her small body frame. Her cell phone was also taken without a warrant. The father of Jacob Blake, the victim of a police shooting in Kenosha, joined the Coles in their protest, and later said he felt as if the Wauwatosa PD “tried to kill them.” 

There are other protestors who state that their cell phones were taken without warrants and that they were taken to various parts of the city and dropped off without help or any means of communication to find their way home. 

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Wauwatosa PD’s reputation of discriminatory policing, violent actions against a grieving mother and her children, combined with the killings of three citizens of color in this small suburb under questionable circumstances is indicative of an ineffective police department.  

The abusive culture within the WPD is systemic and alarming. It should be addressed by community and political leaders in Wisconsin. It should also be a priority for the African American community and political leadership in the city of Milwaukee because of Wauwatosa’s proximity.  

The lack of shopping venues for consumers in the city of Milwaukee creates a direct connection to Wauwatosa that cannot be ignored. The police are not just a Wauwatosa problem when they commit racist actions against Milwaukee citizens of color.

Disbanding the entire Wauwatosa Police department is the only viable and logical solution. Wauwatosa citizens will have to decide on whether it is necessary to restructure a new police department with new policies and procedures regarding policing to protect their future.