Wauwatosa Officer Who Shot Alvin Cole Had Been Reprimanded For Crashes, High-Speed Chase

Officer Joseph Mensah Will Receive $125K Severance To Resign From Wauwatosa Police Department

Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah
This undated photo provided by the Wauwatosa Police Department in Wauwatosa, Wis., shows Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah. In a report released Wednesday Oct. 7, 2020, an independent investigator recommended officials in the Milwaukee suburb fire Mensah, who has shot and killed three people in the last five years. Gary Monreal/Monreal Photography LLC/Wauwatosa Police Department via AP

Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah lied about a high-speed chase and was involved in two crashes with his patrol vehicle last year, according to internal police documents obtained by Wisconsin Public Radio.

The embattled officer has been suspended since July, and last week agreed to a separation agreement effective Nov. 30. He’ll be paid more than $125,000 to leave.

Attorney Kimberley Motley, who represents the families of three people Mensah fatally shot while working as a police officer, said that’s not enough. She said she wants Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber fired.

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Through an open records request filed in July, Motley recently received 1,654 pages of emails and documents related to Mensah’s job performance.

Motley said the documents raise questions about Mensah’s emotional issues that may have affected his job performance and the disciplinary actions taken by the department while he violated police protocol.

“These emails provide a real disturbing lens into the lack of oversight that Officer Mensah has had under the direction of Chief Weber,” Motley said. “It shows a culture of a lack of supervision and a lack of accountability of Officer Joseph Mensah that resulted in him ultimately killing three people within a five-year time period.”

WPR independently examined the documents, which included Mensah’s performance reviews, emails between Weber and ranking members of the police department regarding Mensah, and department protocols. The documents show Mensah didn’t follow proper policies and procedures, and at least in one case lied about it. And they show that the department had been warned about his mental state.

Incidents included in the records were happening between the time Jay Anderson was fatally shot by Mensah in June 2016 and when Alvin Cole was killed by Mensah Feb. 2, 2020.

Mensah also killed Antonio Gonzales in July 2015.

Mensah was cleared of criminal charges by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in all three shootings.

Weber and police department spokesperson Sgt. Abby Pavlik didn’t respond to request for comment.

On Friday, the Wauwatosa Police Department released a statement regarding Mensah’s separation agreement with the city, saying he will resign in good standing with the department.

“Officer Mensah has been a member of this department for the past five years and will be missed. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” it said.

Mensah Was Reprimanded For Chase At ‘Ridiculous’ Speed

In 2018, Mensah received a letter of reprimand after he engaged in a high-speed chase in March on suburban streets while pursuing a suspect in an alleged retail theft at a Home Goods store.

In Mensah’s report, he told superiors his “top speed was 75 miles per hour.” But after investigators reviewed the video, they found Mensah was going 110 mph, without using his siren.

“Mensah said he knew this was not a desirable pursuit, but for some reason he had the ‘get the bad guy’ urge that overtook his decision-making this time,” Police Capt. Luke Vetter wrote in his report.

In an email to Vetter, Wauwatosa Police Lt. Jeffrey Farina thanked Vetter for taking care of the situation.

“I agree with your decision for formal discipline, the speeds are ridiculous! Mensah knows better than that,” Farina said.

In 2018 and 2019, Mensah was involved in two vehicle crashes and received a reprimand and a suspension as a result, according to documents.

Mensah received a letter of reprimand from Weber in February 2019 for colliding his squad car with another vehicle on Jan. 31, 2019.

“While this was a very minor crash, it was your negligence that caused it,” Weber wrote. “Police officers are held to a high standard and are expected to set an example for the public. When we fail to do so, the discipline and confidence of our organization is affected in a negative way.”

In December 2019, Mensah was suspended for one day after a minor crash involving his patrol car on Nov. 28, 2019, according to internal police documents.

Mensah told his superiors he was aware of a retail theft involving a stolen vehicle, so he drove to a Meijer grocery store to look for the vehicle and backed up, striking a loading dock, according to documents.

Weber also received what appears to have been an anonymous tip signed by a “concerned citizen” in an email sent on Dec. 19, 2019, which warned Weber to watch Mensah because of his volatile relationship with his girlfriend, a Milwaukee police officer.

“Mensah is a complete RED FLAG to your department because to my understanding Agent Mensah is undergoing psychiatric treatment because he killed people in the line of duty,” the email says.

The emailer went on to say that it would be “a matter of seconds before havoc begins.” The emailer told Weber he was emailing out of concern of both himself and Weber, because he was trying to “save both headaches.”

Weber didn’t simply delete it. He forwarded the email to Wauwatosa Police Capt. Brian Zalewski.

On July 24, 2020, Mensah appeared on the conservative talk radio show “The Joe Pags Show” following his suspension for violating protocol in the Jay Anderson shooting.

Pags asked Mensah if he was in good standing as a police officer.

“If you were to get my file, you wouldn’t see anything,” Mensah said.

Attorney: City Has Failed To Demand Accountability In Police Department

Motley said the leeway Mensah had at the department under Weber was unacceptable.

“One thing that is important to know is, were the Common Council, Police and Fire Commission and Mayor McBride aware of this?” Motley said. “Were they aware of the lack of accountability under Chief Weber, and now that they are aware, what are they going to do about it?”

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride, who served on the city’s common council for 10 years before being elected mayor in April, said he has never seen the documents obtained by Motley and has no knowledge of the incidents described in them.

“I can’t say for sure, but because these are internal Wauwatosa Police Department documents, I expect that the Common Council was not aware of them, either,” McBride said. “As for the Police and Fire Commission, I have no knowledge of whether they were aware of these documents and the incidents described in them.”

When Mensah agreed to resign last week, McBride said he hoped the city could begin to heal. In a previous interview with WPR, McBride said Weber is not perfect, but he doesn’t believe he should be fired.

The city’s Police and Fire Commission has direct oversight of the department. Members of the commission could not immediately be reached for comment.