Two lawyers are preparing for a hearing that will determine the fate of the suspended Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah.
After a third party investigator in an October report concluded that Mensah should be fired and cited an “exceptional” risk of a fourth fatal shootout, Mensah’s attorney said that his client’s due process would be violated Dismissed for a shootout that did not yet occurred. Mensah has fatally shot three people on duty in the past five years.
In the meantime, the lawyer representing the families of the three people Mensah killed is calling for Mensah to resign.
Mensah’s attorney Jonathan Cermele said Mensah was “fully able” to do all aspects of his job.
“You just cannot be disciplined for an act that has not yet taken place. It would clearly be against due process,” Cermele wrote in a document he recently filed with the Wauwatosa Police and Fire Commission.
Third party investigator Steven Biskupic, a former US attorney hired by the police and fire departments, said in his report that the ability to continue Mensah as a fully empowered police officer “poses an exceptional, unjustified and unnecessary risk to the Wauwatosa Police Department represents and the city of Wauwatosa. “
Mensah was suspended on July 15th after a unanimous vote by the commission – against payment. On October 7, the Milwaukee District Attorney said Mensah would not be charged with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole on February 2. Mensah was also not charged for the previous two shootings.
Kimberley Motley, the lawyer for the families of the three people Mensah killed, is asking the commission to terminate Mensah.
“Failure to terminate Mensah will inappropriately reduce the severity of the violations, expose the Department and citizens to greater financial liability and the possibility of death or aggravated injury,” Motley wrote in a document she submitted to the Commission.
In a document titled “Findings of Fact,” Motley said Mensah had fired his gun 19 times in five years. Motley also said Mensah was the only Wauwatosa police officer to have fired his gun more than once in the past five years.
Motley said she believes Mensah “poses a threat to the safety of residents and individuals in the city of Wauwatosa”.
“A preponderance of evidence shows that Mensah must be terminated for the good of the service,” added Motley.
On the other hand, in documents submitted to the Commission, Cermele said that Mensah continues to be able to use discretion when using force.
“To conclude otherwise, an illogical and artificial rule arises that an officer can only use force a certain number of times (fatally or otherwise),” said Cermele.
Cermele also referred to Biskupic’s report. “The investigator is attempting to influence the board through strategies of horror that indicate a potential financial risk for a civil rights violation if the board does not remove Officer Mensah,” Cermele said.
Cermele and Motley submitted documents to the commission on Wednesday October 28, including their list of witnesses and the proposed findings of fact.
Next, the commission will hold a hearing to determine Mensah’s future employment in the department.
The commission’s attorney, Chris Smith, said the next police and fire commission meeting is expected to take place in the week of November 9-13. The commission then sets the date and time for the evidence part of the hearing.
In documents filed with the commission, Motley said she believed Mensah violated Wawuatosa Police Department guidelines after being suspended after speaking with the media. Motley said Mensah had not been given permission to speak to the media by Barry Weber, the Wauwatosa police chief.
Mensah spoke to several outlets, including WISN-AM (1130), after his suspension.
Motley said she believed Mensah made false statements during the interviews.
“This is a tremendous violation as officials must be able to be credible witnesses in legal proceedings and Mensah’s false statements have created a situation where he cannot enforce the law, including his ability to testify in court,” wrote Motley.
However, Cermele said Mensah did not speak about the ongoing investigation into the Cole shootings during his interview. Rather, he talked about “how he has been treated by the City of Wauwatosa and its officials in relation to this citizen complaint,” according to a pre-hearing report.
Cermele also said Mensah would have broken the rule only if he spoke on behalf of the department.
“Chief Weber admitted that Officer Mensah did not speak on behalf of the WPD during this radio interview,” Cermele wrote.
Evan Casey can be reached at 414-403-4391 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ecaseymedia.