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.”