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November 11th, 2008
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John Balcerzak, the Shame of Milwaukee
Now, to be honest, I never had a very high opinion of Milwaukee to begin with. Nor did I have a particularly low opinion, either. Tonight, that changed, and here's why.


As most people probably know, Milwaukee was from 1989 to 1991 the hunting-ground of a particularly depraved fellow by the name of Jeffrey Dahmer. Between those years, Dahmer murdered at least 17 people. And he didn't just kill them: he homosexually raped them, tortured them to death, homosexually raped them some more, then ate parts of the bodies and kept the remainder as souveniers. Oh, and apparently he conducted strange experiments with some of the corpses to see if he could re-animate them as zombies.

Then, in May 1991 ...

In the early morning hours of May 30, 1991, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone (the younger brother of the boy whom Dahmer had molested) was discovered on the street, wandering naked, under heavy influence of drugs and bleeding from his rectum. Reports of the boy's injuries varied. Dahmer told police that Sinthasomphone was his 19-year-old boyfriend, and that they had an argument while drinking. Against the teenager's protests, police turned him over to Dahmer. They later reported smelling a strange scent but did not investigate it. It was later found to be bodies in the back of his room. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered Sinthasomphone, keeping his skull as a souvenir.

(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Balcerzak)

Now, this is incompetence above and beyond the call of duty, on the part of the two police officers. Need I go into the specific list of bad decisions required for policemen to return a naked and obviously-injured boy "against his protests" to a man claiming to be his gay lover? When I add to this that the two officers did not even bother to check the identity of either person, and that such a check of either would have led to a situation in which making an arrest would have been almost unavoidable, you will see that this was a blunder worthy of Matt Groening's "Springfield Police Department" from The Simpsons.

The fact that the officers had been invited into Dahmer's apartment (so they could have legally searched the premises without a warrant), and that he had decomposing human corpses in the back room of that apartment at the time, is just icing on this cake of utter incompetence.

Dahmer then proceeded to murder Sinthasomphone and four more individuals. In other words, the police blunder had directly led to the death of five people. All those two cops needed to do was show a spark of intellect between them -- heck, all they needed to do was follow standard police procedures -- and five lives would have been saved.

Then, on July 22nd, 1991, another man -- Tracy Edwards -- was lured to Dahmer's murder den. Edwards also escaped, as had Sinthasomphone. Fortunately, unlike Sinthasomphone, when he escaped he ran into a couple of real cops -- officers who used their heads for purposes beyond holding their caps in place. Edwards led the police to Dahmer's apartment, where Dahmer was promptly arrested, and his ghoulish collection discovered.

As you know, Dahmer's story pretty much ends there. He was convicted, sentenced to multiple consecutive terms totalling 957 years, and in 1994 murdered by another inmate in prison.

But that's not the shame of Milwaukee. Many cities have had serial killers, some even more destructive (though few as weird) as was Jeffrey Dahmer.

Nor is the fact that Milwaukee had two officers as incompetent as John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish, the two cops who inexplicably returned Dahmer's victim to his clutches. Many cities have had incompetent police officers, after all.

No, the shame of Milwaukee is what happened next.

At first, of course, Balcerzak and Gabrish were fired -- though only after their incompetence was publicized, which should have been a warning sign. But then they appealed for reinstatement to the force.

They were reinstated. With full back pay. And right after that

... Balcerzak and Gabrish were named "officers of the year" by their local union, the Milwaukee Police Association ...

Think about what this implies about the Milwaukee Police Association. When you name someone an "officer of the year," you are saying that this officer is superior to the average policeman in terms of competence, dedication to duty, etc. In other words, the MPA was effectively saying "Most of us are less competent than these two officers."

Well, I'll buy that. I don't care a ding-dong for the reputation of Milwaukee police officers. But you'd think that at least some of them would have been offended at the implied insult to themselves. That, after that, Balcerzak and Gabrish would have been tacitly despised by the other cops, right?

Nope. The MPA was not through with its tireless campaign to make Milwaukee cops the laughingstock of the nation. Lest someone miss the point, and believe that Milwaukee police officers were respectable servants of their community ...

In May 2005, Balcerzak was elected president of the Milwaukee Police Association, defeating Sebastian Raclaw by a vote of 521 to 453.

Well, at least there were 453 Milwaukee cops with some sense of self-respect. Hopefully, some of them eventually transferred to real police forces. In the meantime:

As president, he has been criticized for failing to protect officers from mandatory overtime and not supporting African-American officer Alfonzo Glover, who was charged with homicide and later committed suicide. By June 2006, the union vice president had resigned because of disagreements with Balcerzak’s "style of leadership."

No, you think? That someone who would return a crime victim to the custody of a serial killer, essentially because he was too stupid and lazy to follow up on the obviously suspicious situation he had discovered, just might ALSO be too stupid and lazy to effectively support member of a union which inexplicably decided to make him their president?

A petition to remove Balcerzak was filed and a recall election was held in August 2006. The results were 213 for a recall and 397 to retain him.

So, even after putting up with what must have been the derisive laughter of a whole city for a year, after putting up with his ineptitude at the job to which they had elected him, the MPA still refused to abandon their standard-bearer. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the problem wasn't the remaining competent cops switching jobs in disgust at what was happening to their force.

Want to read something funny?

From the Marquette Tribune

http://media.www.marquettetribune.org/media/storage/paper1130/news/2007/03/20/News/The-Challenge.Of.Choosing.A.Police.Chief-2779364.shtml

Along those same lines, John Balcerzak, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, said he hopes the new chief will communicate to the community the police department's job.

Balcerzak said that too often the community views police officers as the corrupt bad guys. He said the chief should communicate to citizens that the police are usually just trying to do their job well.

"If you're fighting crime, you have to educate the public that not everything police officers are doing is bad," Balcerzak said.


Keep in mind from whose mouth those golden words originate. If "too often the community views police officers as the corrupt bad guys," might this not in part be Balcerzak's own fault? I mean, would you trust a police force that might decide to hand you over to the custody of your assailant? One which would vote an imbecile like Balcerzak to represent itself?

The city was even, in 2007, thinking of naming this fool their Chief of Police.

They picked a man named Flynn instead. Why, I don't know. I could speculate that Athena, Protectress of Cities, personally appeared before the municipal government and pointed out to them that, if they did this, She would have to revoke their status as a "city." Or Matt Groening might have sued for plagiarism, since he clearly has the copyright on Police Chief Wiggum as a character.

In any case, I officially state here and now that I regard membership in the Milwaukee Police Department to constitute a dishonor, rather than the honor that being a police officer would be in most cities. And I'm not so sure about the city as a whole -- if I lived there, this sort of story would make me consider moving.


Thank you, Milwaukee, and thank you, John Balcerzak. Your example makes all other American cities look good by comparison.

Well, except for New Orleans. But that's another story.

I await the outraged responses. :)

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(34 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:firstashore
Date:November 12th, 2008 06:41 am (UTC)
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You mean you're TROLLING for outraged responses... there's a difference.
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From:headnoises
Date:November 12th, 2008 09:39 am (UTC)
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What? Like handing over a 14 year old violent rape victim to the guy who kills and eats him SHOULDN'T result in an outraged response?
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)
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And it's not as if it would have exactly taken crack detective work to discover the reality of the situation. All those two lummoxes needed to do was to run ID checks. Admittedly this would have meant remaining in Dahmer's presence for whatever number of minutes this took (things weren't as computerized in 1991 as they would be today), and I'm sure that Dahmer wasn't a fun guy to be around (the officers were probably repulsed, and maybe even subliminally frightened by him), but that's what we hire cops for. Policemen who are afraid to be in the presence of dangerous lunatics, and let this deter them from doing their job, are not good cops -- certainly not "officers of the year," save in a very inept department.
[User Picture]
From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
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There is?
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From:sianmink
Date:November 12th, 2008 06:55 am (UTC)
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[OUTRAGED RESPONSE]
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From:vakkotaur
Date:November 12th, 2008 07:26 am (UTC)
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I grew up in Wisconsin (northcentral WI) and somehow this is utterly unsurprising about Milwaukee to me.
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From:headnoises
Date:November 12th, 2008 09:37 am (UTC)
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Ugh....

I never really placed the Dahmer crimes in relation to my own life.

They've been "always have been" things to me.

Really F*ing scary to know I was down in that area while that psycho was still on the loose.

(my parents were really good about keeping the psycho news from us--we watched a lot of PBS)
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From:montieth
Date:November 12th, 2008 10:55 am (UTC)
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I suppose that just sounds, for me from the south, typical for a northern police department. I mean look at Philadelphia's Police and their method of dealing with 'bunker'. Drop an incendiary device on it from a helicopter and burn an entire city block down.
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh yes, I heard about the MOVE incident. Still, at least that has the excuse of being in the context of a confrontation with a bunch of violent loonies -- if you look at the things MOVE did, there was no way that the city could just let them stay there. The raid was mishandled, but in some form was necessary. In retrospect, of course, the raid should have been conducted with different tactics.

Alice Walker's comments are especially hilarious, and revelatory of her complete lack of common sense.
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From:montieth
Date:November 12th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I don't question their objectives, their tactics and good thinking just went utterly pear shaped. Dropping an incendiary bomb on a wooden row house block? Hello?!!? Heck, why not just get some flame throwers, that would be more deliberate and controlled than a bomb dropped from a helicopter.
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
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The tactics were screwed up.

I may be remembering this wrong, but was the bomb really an "incendiary?" What I heard was that the fire resulted from the secondary explosion of MOVE's magazine, which included a lot of weapons heavier than one would expect to find in urban self-defense.

At the time, I was heavily into Call of Cthulhu roleplaying, and MOVE reminded me of one of the mad cults from that universe.
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From:ghostwolf
Date:November 12th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
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I was there when Wilson Goode replaced Frank Rizzo as Mayor. It was an incendiary; tear gas has to be burned/vapourised/dispersed to be effective. Unfortunately, it was the wrong tactic, the wrong place and it was done on live television, of all things. Under Rizzo - corrupt though he was - this stupidity would have never been considered.
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)
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By contrast, Balcerzak and his partner weren't facing nearly as dangerous a situation (scary as Dahmer was, he wasn't as scary as a whole cult of lunatics with military weapons and a bunker) and the error was the opposite -- they were essentially too lazy and maybe too frightened to do their duty.
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From:montieth
Date:November 12th, 2008 01:03 pm (UTC)
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Lazy would be the likely answer.
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
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Though for obvious reasons Balcerzak wouldn't emphasize this, he may have also been frightened -- even subconsciously. He may have been picking up on Dahmer's murderous and insane personality without full awareness of what he was perceiving. I'm willing to bet that even a goofup like Balcerzak would have been willing to do his duty if he'd known Dahmer was a killer.
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From:headnoises
Date:November 15th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)
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I've noticed something like this in my life-- that is, folks unconsciously picking up on what folks are like, and reacting.

Unfortunately, I got the Paladin response. -.- That'd be great if I was a nice, big guy who could back it up-- but I'm a runt female, and as soon as I meet up with a crazy that doesn't back down in shock when someone stands up to them, I'm toast.

That said, in about twenty years of tilting at windmills, all the bad guys have either backed down when someone fights back, or there's been backup. (Several times when I've faced down folks I honestly, to this day, think were unhinged-- I got backup from bigger people who just weren't willing to act.)

Not a bad record....
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From:bdunbar
Date:November 12th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I spent most of my life in the south - Oklahoma, North Carolina and Texas. Now I live in Wisconsin.

It _is_ pretty typical of big city police departments up here. The smaller cities tend to be better policed.
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From:banner
Date:November 13th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
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A friend of mine went to EOD school with the guy who built the bomb that did the damage. I can't remember the whole story, but the guy had told him all about what happened. I can't remember if they were actually trying to firebomb the place or not. It was a long time ago.
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From:polyanarch
Date:November 12th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
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All cops are this stupid.

Period. It comes with the job description.

Those of us who grew up in Wisconsin just knew to stay out of Milwaukee, there being dragons there. At least in socialist Madison, where the cops were just as incompetent (The chief of police kept his issue firearm in his oven and one day it just "cooked off" after he forgot to remove it before heating up a pizza) the crime rate was always pretty low.

But that has been changing in the past 20 years as the city goes through growing pains of its own and Chicago began exporting its poorest, most-criminal element to Madison where they could get big "raises" as the welfare system up there was much riper and lower-hanging fruit for them.

Welcome to blue-state hell. Come to Wisconsin and smell our dairy air!
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From:brianblackberry
Date:November 12th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
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Nice stereotyping of police there, of course you'll think much more highly of them when you suddenly find yourself needing their help in a situation and pleading for their assistance on 911.

Milwaukee isn't that bad, like all major areas it has its lousy ghetto neighborhoods but Milwaukee isn't Detroit heck it isn't even Chicago (where I am from), some parts are completely indistinguishable from the suburbs surrounding it (and about all Milwaukee suburbs are middle class although some like Fox Point are upper class). Man, Wisconsin is barely blue (like that matters since the states routinely "change color" on election maps).
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From:ghostwolf
Date:November 12th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
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</i>"Nice stereotyping of police there, of course you'll think much more highly of them when you suddenly find yourself needing their help in a situation and pleading for their assistance on 911."</i>

If you live long enough for them to arrive. When it takes at least 10 minutes for them to get moving, your life can end just in time for the police to fill out the incident reports the coroner needs.

As for the stereotypes, I've lived in large cities and small towns. I can state unequivocally the median cities tend to have the more inept police, as in the small towns everyone knows nearly everyone, and the large cities tend to be both forceful and visible. No, it doesn't work. But why should reality intrude?
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From:polyanarch
Date:November 12th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
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of course you'll think much more highly of them when you suddenly find yourself needing their help in a situation and pleading for their assistance on 911.

I'd sooner deal with a situation myself than call 911. There are very few situations on this earth that can't be made MUCH WORSE by adding a cop to. The last thing I'd do is call 911 in just about any situation.
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From:banner
Date:November 13th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
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I know a lot of cops, grew up around quite a few cops too. These days the quality of police officers is pretty low. Because they're not allowed to do the back ground checks they used to do, can't subject them too all the other processes to weed out bad eggs, etc. It is not unheard of for gang members to become police officers, and still engage in gang activities in their off time.

It's a shame really, because there are some good officers out there, but the quality of officers today is way down from what it once was on whole.
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From:headnoises
Date:November 15th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC)
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All cops are this stupid.

You are wrong.

I know many who are not stupid.

By knowing even ONE who is brilliant, I disprove your assertion.

He works in Modoc County, CA-- his last name is Richardson.

Everyone who works with him is smart enough to make drug busts, on the Nevada border, with sh*t for budget. They stick.
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From:justgin1228
Date:November 12th, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC)
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What gross injustice!

So what happened to the real cops who arrested Dahmer?
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From:justgin1228
Date:November 12th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
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And btw, Laverne and Shirley would have made better cops than those first two.
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
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Lenny and Squiggy would have made better cops than Balcerzak and his partner.
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From:jordan179
Date:November 12th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
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I actually don't know. Dark-comedic symmetry would require that they were disciplined or even fired for doing a good job, but real life is rarely that tidy.
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From:justgin1228
Date:November 12th, 2008 07:45 pm (UTC)
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Actually I was thinking that same thing, and that the two real heroes would have their pink slips delivered by the two bumbling idiots.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 12th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
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Now, this is incompetence above and beyond the call of duty, on the part of the two police officers. Need I go into the specific list of bad decisions required for policemen to return a naked and obviously-injured boy "against his protests" to a man claiming to be his gay lover?

Thus preventing a big-buck$ HOMOPHOBIA!!!! lawsuit against the department and being forced to attend Mandatory Diversity/Sensitivity/Tolerance Re-education before being fired for costing the Department so much $$$$$$$...
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From:ghostwolf
Date:November 12th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
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I will quote Heinlein to make a point, and thus draw the outraged responces to me: "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."
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From:banner
Date:November 13th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
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Wow, I always wondered what had happened to those two officers, I had HOPED that they had gone home and committed suicide, and if not, that someone had 'done it for them.' Because they are either too stupid to live (and should be removed from the gene pool forthwith) or they are too corrupt (because let's face it, odds are Dalmer paid them off, and that's why they left).

Again, I just CAN NOT believe this SOB is still breathing. Someone really needs to fix that... Maybe we could pray for a bolt of lightning?
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From:spirit_fox4_12
Date:July 20th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
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Both Balzerak and his partner were reinstated back into the police departments with backpay and awards for their outstanding work in the Dahmer Case. Both now hold high ranking police jobs, both are around Police captains I believe.

Neither regret their decisions enough to have relinquished their places in the police force. If you mess up that badly, you should at least have the common decency to resign from the police force and give a written apology to the family that you RUINED.

The Sinthasomphone parents lost BOTH their children to Dahmer, and one could have been saved had the police not been incompetent GITS.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 17th, 2012 06:11 am (UTC)

John Balcerzak

(Link)
I want to know why this piece of #$%# was allowed to go unpunished for the horrible crime of not taking care of that young boy Konerak Sinthasomphone & not following up. He & his partner are just as responsible for the death of that young boy & the rest of the boys that died at the hands of that monster Jeffery Dohmer. I am outraged, absolutely outraged by the lack of responsibility & accountablility by them & the Milwaukee Police Force. I wonder how they can look themselves in the mirror or sleep at night.

Renee A
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