Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride says he stands by his decisions to implement a curfew and request the National Guard in the days following the Milwaukee County district attorney's decision not to charge a Wauwatosa police officer who fatally shot a black teenager.
Officer Joseph Mensah fatally shot Alvin Cole at Mayfair Mall in February. Mensah maintains that Cole had a gun and fired at officers.
While some Wauwatosa residents and business owners were pleased with the heavy, armed presence, it angered others who viewed it as excessive.
McBride has continuously defended his decisions to order a curfew and call in the National Guard. On Tuesday, McBride told a panel of journalists during a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon that his goal was to protect the city from the level of destruction and violence that occurred during protests in Kenosha in late August. Those protests followed a police officer’s shooting of Jacob Blake, a young black man. Blake was left paralyzed.
“Beforehand, we had two options. Treat the situation as business as usual or prepare for the worst. Treating the situation as normal would have run the risk of having inadequate resources available to quell serious violence. Preparing for trouble allowed us to keep the situation under control,” McBride says.
McBride says just as he has heard from people who did not like the measures he did take, if he had done nothing, he would be hearing from people on the other side of the spectrum.
The Wauwatosa mayor also says the presidential election factored into his decision. While Democrat Joe Biden visited Kenosha to call for unity and racial equity, Republican President Donald Trump traveled there to promote a “law and order” approach. McBride says more violence after what occurred in Kenosha would have made it difficult for Biden to have a chance at winning the state.
“Ask yourself: If Wauwatosa had had real violence, would Joe Biden be able to compete in Wisconsin?” McBride says.
Just as the decision not to charge Mensah in Cole’s death drew protests, there are concerns about more civil unrest once the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission makes its decision about whether Mensah should keep his job. The families of the three people Mensah killed in the line of duty are demanding he lose his job. But McBride says he has no plans to again request the National Guard or implement a curfew.
“Those are last resort things. I don’t expect to have those things happen again,” McBride says.
As to what people should expect when the Police and Fire Commission makes its decision:
“I think we will have support from other neighboring police departments under mutual aid agreements. I’m hopeful that as happened in Wauwatosa from Oct. 7- Oct. 12, most of the protesters will remain peaceful,” McBride says.
McBride estimates that those five or so days of increased security cost the city about $28,000.
When asked about the fear some people have of the police and not protesters, McBride acknowledged that it’s a problem across the country that is also felt locally. He says policing has to be reformed in order to gain the respect of everyone. He says Wauwatosa has commissioned a review of its police department to determine how it can better serve the community.