ACLU of Wisconsin condemns Waukesha Sheriff’s Department for hiring Joseph Mensah

By: - January 27, 2021 6:30 am
Officer Joseph Mensah (Photo | Wauwatosa PD)

Officer Joseph Mensah (Photo | Wauwatosa PD)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin has released a statement condemning the Waukesha County Sheriff Department for hiring former Wauwatosa officer Joseph Mensah. ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ott called the move “irresponsible, and disrespectful to the community.”

Mensah was sworn in as a Waukesha County deputy Monday, according to Sheriff Eric Severson. In November, Mensah resigned from the Wauwatosa Police Department, taking with him a severance agreement. After being involved in a third fatal shooting over a five-year period, Mensah became the center of protests in the suburb throughout the summer and fall.

“For him to simply relocate and get the same kind of job with another department is disheartening and dangerous,” added Ott. “Law enforcement cannot establish trust with the people who they are supposed to serve if they embrace officers who repeatedly undermine it.” Further the ACLU executive director said: “Although the Milwaukee County District Attorney brought no charges against Mensah in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole last year, former U.S. attorney Steven Biskupic who was hired by the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission, said that Mensah should be fired from his position because there was an ‘extraordinary risk’ that Mensah would be involved in a fourth fatal shooting should he keep his job.”

Ott said hiring Mensah puts residents in danger and does not honor commitments to hold law enforcement officials accountable for their actions. “It is hard to fathom why the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office has chosen to put its community at such an extraordinary risk by taking on Mensah as a deputy. After seeing such deep and recent concern across the entire country about systemic need for police accountability, it is hard to understand the logic behind this example of just the opposite.”

Kimberley Motley, a lawyer representing the families of the men shot by Mensah, calls the decision “an emotional hire,” adding that she is “curious whether the city and county residents of Waukesha know, understand, and can appreciate the potential legal liabilities that have been opened up to them with hiring Mensah. I think, from a legal liability standpoint, it seemed a very very foolish gamble to take.”



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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.