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Wauwatosa Mayor Explains His Lack Of Power In Mensah Case

Chuck Quirmbach
Marchers outside the Cheesecake Factory restaurant at Mayfair Mall, in the parking lot where Alvin Cole was shot by Officer Joseph Mensah.

When George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, people in Wauwatosa focused their attention on a local police officer responsible for killing 3 people on the job. 

Kenosha, Wisconsin has seen protests and several nights of unrest since this weekend, when a Black man named Jacob Blake was shot in the back by police. Blake is just the latest victim in a string of police-shootings and killings, that have galvanized a nationwide movement against police brutality and racial injustice. 

In the Milwaukee-area, protests have been on-going since this spring and in nearby Wauwatosa these protests have focused on an officer named Joseph Mensah. Over the last five years, Officer Mensah has killed 3 people, including 17-year-old Alvin Cole in February.

Protesters have called for his firing and arrest but neither have happened. Mensah is currently suspended, and the killing of Cole is still being investigated. Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride had just started his first term on the job when protests erupted in spring.

As the protests continue, McBride has specifically been called on to fire Officer Mensah, but he says that under Wisconsin law he has no power to do so. That power resides with the Police and Fire Commission. The Wauwatosa Police Chief has also called for a firing of the Wauwatosa Equity and Inclusion Commission chairman but again McBride says he has no authority to do so.

Something McBride does have the authority to do is set curfews, a power he exercised for three nights in early June and in early August after gunshots were fired during a protest at the house of Officer Mensah. He says these efforts are not to curb the right to assembly but to keep protests peaceful.

“The protests in Wauwatosa and across the country began soon thereafter and it’s been almost a daily thing in Wauwatosa. People have a constitutional right to protest, and we support that right,” says McBride.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.