Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm (Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County)
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, first elected in 2007, has announced that he will not seek reelection. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Chisholm confirmed what sources within his office had been discussing unofficially. “After nearly 30 years as a prosecutor, it is time for me to pursue new endeavors, and for the people of Milwaukee County to choose a new District Attorney to continue the work of ensuring a safe, just, and prosperous community for all,” Chisholm said in a statement.
The district attorney, who was highly regarded by supporters of progressive criminal justice reform policies, was elected in 2007. Prior to Chisholm, Edward Michael McCann had served as district attorney since 1969. Chisholm was hired by the longtime DA in 1994, working his way up as a prosecutor.
During his tenure as DA, Chisholm created specialized units focusing on witness intimidation, child abuse and crimes related to guns and drugs. Chisholm also won convictions against Milwaukee police officers for illegal strip and body cavity searches. He was criticized by activists and members of minority communities in Milwaukee for refusing to charge police officers for the shootings of Derek Williams in 2011, Dontre Hamilton in 2014, and Jay Anderson Jr. in 2016. Another sore point was the case of Corey Stingley, who was killed by three white customers of a West Allis convenience store, none of whom was charged. Activist groups also blasted Chisholm for not prosecuting correctional officers in the numerous deaths that have occurred at the Milwaukee County jail.
Right-wing figures and politicians have criticized Chisholm for not being tougher on crime. Those criticisms peaked after the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy – where a man recently released on bail drove a vehicle through the parade killing and wounding dozens. That incident was leveraged by Republican candidates who blamed Democrats and attacked the cash bail, parole, and probation systems. In early 2022, Republican lawmakers declined to support a Republican-crafted bill which would, in part, give district attorney’s more flexibility in pursuing pen registers for phone investigations because the law also applied to the Milwaukee DA’s Office.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley made a thank you post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Jan. 5. “Thank you to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for his decades of service to our community. Over the years, District Attorney Chisholm has worked tirelessly to pursue justice and promote public safety for those we serve. I wish him all the best in the future.”
Chisholm’s top deputy, Kent Lovern, is expected to run for the office, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Chisholm told the paper that he will work with Lovern as he finishes out his 2024 term.
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