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.
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
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. :)