Justice for Joseph Mensah
By Dan O'Donnell
July 28, 2020
Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah just wants to be heard. After weeks of listening to others condemn his service and his character, he's speaking out for the first time.
"There's a little bit of anger, frustration, and a lot of confusion," he said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with "The Dan O'Donnell Show."
Mensah, 30, has been suspended with pay after protesters descended on Wauwatosa to demand his firing over three deadly shooting incidents in the past five years even though it has not been demonstrated that he did anything wrong. He was cleared of all wrongdoing in the deaths of Antonio Gonzalez in 2015 and Jay Anderson the following year and an investigation into this February's shooting of Alvin Cole at Mayfair Mall seems likely to clear him as well.
"I was suspended even though they couldn't say that I did anything wrong," Mensah said. "If you look at my suspension it just says 'Suspended on orders from the Fire and Police Commission.'"
The unanimous vote came a day after the Wauwatosa Common Council voted nearly unanimously to recommend that Mensah be fired. Demonstrators have been demanding the move since learning about it in the wake of national protests and riots over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
On Monday night, those demonstrators showed up at Mensah's house.
"I was having a small get-together for my nephew, and while they were here protesters decided to show up at my house," he said. "Officers pretty much had to shuttle these children out of the house and out of the area, away from the protesters. I had to explain to four, five, and six year-old children why people were so mean to them, why they were swearing at them, chanting, taunting, and screaming at them."
Mensah estimates that approximately 100 people who were on foot and 20-30 cars showed up in front of his house.
"There is no need for that. There was no cause for that."
Mensah described the dozens of threats he has received over social media and during a public listening session in which one man said he planned to drive around Wauwatosa with a headlight out waiting for Mensah to pull him over.
"I'm suspended so I don't know what he thinks," Mensah said with a chuckle.
He has been able to keep a sense of humor about the sheer absurdity of it all, but says he is both saddened and angered about the manner in which the Common Council and Fire and Police Commission have treated him.
"They decided to retroactively change their rules to allow for a special investigator to come in and investigate what happened [in 2015 and 2016]," he explained. "They didn't care about it in 2017, 2018, and 2019, so why now?"
Mensah, who is black, said he did not want to believe that his race has played a role in why Wauwatosa officials have targeted him, but he can't help but think it played a role. He also said he was bemused that only a handful of news stories about his case either show a picture of him or mention his race.
"It kind of changes the narrative," he reasoned.
That narrative--that a racist cop has been targeting black men in Wauwatosa for years--simply isn't supported by the facts. The U.S. Attorney's Office, Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office, and Milwaukee Police Department have all investigated the 2015 and 2016 shootings and determined that Mensah did nothing wrong.
Gonzalez charged at officers with a sword. Anderson was reaching for a gun. In the incident in February, Cole was brandishing a weapon during a brawl while screaming "F*** mall security!" and "F*** the police!" He fired at officers when they arrived and chased him into the mall parking lot.
Still, demonstrators are demanding that Mensah be fired, and while the Wauwatosa Police Department and police union have stood by him and fiercely defended him, the city's elected officials and citizen-run Fire and Police Commission have caved to the mob's demands.
Due process, it seems, doesn't exist for Joseph Mensah. In a cruel irony, the very same people demanding justice for all have been trying to ensure that there is no justice for Joseph Mensah.
Mensah, however, won't let that happen. He's prepared to fight for himself, for the police department he loves so much, for the people of Wauwatosa who support it, and for the rule of law itself.
He said his attorneys are prepared to take whatever steps are necessary, and that he is grateful for those who have supported him and defended him--from his fellow officers to members of the public.
"It's almost overwhelming," he said. "The things they have sent to the mayor, to the Common Council, to the Fire and Police Commission supporting me, it's been amazing."
Joseph's brother Christopher Mensah has set up a GoFundMe page to help with Joseph's legal fund. Click here to donate.