Special thanks to Michael Bell Sr, Dion McNeil and Dean Martin

By Kerri Barber

The thin blue line is now shattered, exposed for what it truly was – a push toward unquestioned, unaccountable action in creating lawlessness in policing across America. This unchecked power gave rise to a culture where whistleblowers are threatened, where racism and corruption thrived and were often encouraged by those within the judicial system who moved from merely supporting officers to complicity in criminal wrongdoing. As the protests to uphold the Constitution’s basic principles of Due Process and Equal protection plead with a nation, these subversive forces within the justice system and law  enforcement drowned them out in a push to further divide the nation to maintain their own power even going so far as to  keep good  officers in terror of speaking out. 

The January 6 acts of sedition by followers of Trump showed clearly, unequivocally that law enforcement has  a systemic bias of racism and a fundamental lack of accountability. For over a decade, national  security has been at risk from domestic terrorists and the alarm was  sounded  by the FBI in a redacted report published in 2006. They knew the unchecked  power of police was aiding in the recruitment and culture change that allowed and encouraged not just white supremacy, but overt corruption. 

While headlines have focused on the events in Washington calling terrorists to account, in another American city, the thin blue line is thriving and police corruption runs unchecked. 

Jacob Blake, shooting victim

Kenosha County has been at the center of national media attention for the incidents that took place earlier this year when yet another unarmed man was shot by police. Within 3 minutes of  their arrival, Kenosha police officers shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. Blake, a father of four, would be paralyzed from these injuries. 

This is not the first time Kenosha police have shot an unarmed man nor the first time they have used this excuse of a mythical weapon to justify the use of deadly force.  It is also not the first time Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley has been at the center of it all. 

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley

In the early hours following the incident when Officer Rusten Sheskey shot Blake, Kenosha’s district attorney issued a statement saying,

“It would be difficult to convince a jury the officer did not “reasonably believe that the shooting at Jacob Blake was necessary to prevent being stabbed … or necessary to prevent someone else from being in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”

Recall that all witnesses stated Blake was on the scene attempting to stop a confrontation by two others. Witnesses were also willing to testify they saw that Blake had no weapon in his possession.

Unequal Protection

Officer Shesky received Public Relation support not just from DA Gravley, but local media rushed to his defense at the same time headlines castigated Blake and suggested that he was to blame for what happened. Reports initially suggested Blake was convicted of  gun charges, had raped a minor and had brandished a weapon. None of this was true.

factcheckjacobblakeMr. Blake was not convicted of any gun charges – old charges had been dismissed without a need for a trail. Blake did not have a weapon nor did the toddlers and children in the car with Blake who were themselves endangered by police use of deadly force. 

Blake did not have a weapon in his hand in any video of the incident, but one surfaced on the floorboard of his car in a location that could not have been seen by officers who cited that weapon’s existence as cause for use of deadly force.  

Like a well choreographed dance, the court of public opinion was manipulated away from facts in the case. Ask anyone today and they will repeat the misinformation sold by the media and officials who never publicly retracted their false information with the same vibrato they had used to convicted Blake in the minds of the public. This formula was well rehearsed because Kenosha has a history of  police shootings and this same DA is at the center of it all. 

michaelbellIn 2004, a Kenosha police officer shot 21 yr old Michael Bell in the head in his own driveway in front of his mother and sister. Bell was also unarmed, had committed no crime and was shot in the head at point blank range. 

Kenosha officers just happened to be in the area where Bell was seated in his car, with the ignition off and it just happened to be the same Kenosha officer on duty- the night before Bell was to testify at a court hearing regarding a previous incident with the same officer.

This officer then participated in a grand  coverup, aided by the  same District Attorney to concoct several changing testimonies of the events that night to excuse  the deadly use of force – explanations that were ultimately deemed “FORENSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE” and unsupported by  the evidence nor physics. 

The pattern in the Blake case had all been done before in the Michael Bell case. 

  • Bullet location cited as inconclusive
  • An independent ballistics expert found lead at the site contradicting Kenosha police’s story
  • Kenosha police refusing to release 16 yr old evidence for testing
  • Kenosha police  refusing to release all but one of 14 recordings from the night in question
  • Three separate and changing stories issued by the department

To make matters worse, the same district attorney has personally intervened with county authorities asking them to stall repeated requests from the Bell family to reopen the investigation. The Bell family sought a coroner’s inquest from the District Attorney and was denied. The family believes they have enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against Kenosha officers and other officials up to and including perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. 

Michael Bell Sr has fought for over a decade to hold officers accountable and was able to change the law preventing them from policing themselves. In fact, Blake’s case was turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice as a result of the state law, Act 348, passed after Bell senior was determined to bring some level of accountability to Wisconsin police investigations. When I spoke with Mr Bell he agreed that more needed to be done and express sympathy for the Blake family. 

However, in the Blake case, the state’s findings and subsequent statements appear to contrast to the statements made by Kenosha DA Graveley. Graveley asserted justification for the use of deadly force, while Attorney General Kaul’s statement was less assured. 

Attorney General Kaul statement released on January 5, says in part:

“There is a pressing need for reform of our criminal justice system. Across the state, there are dedicated public servants in law enforcement whose work makes their communities safer. But the system we have in place—which, unlike the criminal justice systems in many others states, has not been significantly reformed in recent years—has produced staggering and unacceptable racial disparities.

“In addition, Wisconsin should adopt a statewide use-of-force standard providing that officers’ primary duty is to preserve life and that officers must use de-escalation techniques to avoid force whenever possible. And law enforcement officers conducting patrol activities should have body-worn cameras. While many agencies in Wisconsin use such recording devices, that practice is still far from uniform—in significant part because of cost. Funding from the legislature to defray these costs would lead to more widespread use of this technology.”

No Accountability

Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser

Kenosha County has refused body cams for its officers. During the outcry from Jacob Blake’s shooting, the county approved purchasing body cameras for officers then immediately refused to fund the entire proposed budget. 

Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser said:

“We heard from community activists, from the general public and from law enforcement officers that the sheriff’s department should have body cameras. Failure to fund body cameras is additionally baffling because many on the County Board actively advocated for it, including some of the four who voted no and the one who abstained, which is a no…” 

The vote failed with the minority objectors prevailing in a 17-4 vote. 

This is stunning considering the pattern of abuse in Kenosha. Former police Chief John Morrissey was caught falsifying records in a controversial tasing incident and purposely obstructing just through FOIA shielding. chiefmorriseyMorrissey retired in 2016 after allegations surfaced only to be hired back in 2019 in a new role, one that seems to have been created specifically for him – as part-time director of the city’s Department of Inspections. And yet  again in 2020, Morrissey’s complicity was rewarded. He now serves  in a full time role, that of city administrator.

Kenosha, you are paying for this. 

Criminally Complicit

From officers admitting to planting evidence and the DA’s office neglecting to notify legal counsel as required by law to the newest evidence of Kenosha officers colluding with white supremacist militia members, the pattern is clear; Kenosha officers are above the law and are being aided by justice officials in their conduct. 

kenoshacountyboardtrumpEven at the county board level, members who purport a focus on “law and order” seemed hell bent at avoiding accountability and transparency. The main objector to the County Board’s budget proposal to pay for body cameras for officers was Supervisor Gabe Nudo, one of several county board members who personally invited President Trump to visit in a formal letter amidst controversy surrounding the Blake case. However these six county board members illegally used the Kenosha County Board letterhead and official seal in drafting  that letter, a move that prompted rebuke from fellow board members. Nudo and the other dissenters effectively denied not only accountability for Kenosha officers, but funding for county projects in the process. 

Even more stunning is that Kenosha has no record of a judicial consent decree. Other cities across the country have had Dept of Justice consent decree remediation plans imposed upon them for far less policing transgressions, yet Kenosha remains autonomous and reckless.

jeffsessionsconsentdecreeConsent decrees fundamentally changed under fired Attorney General Jeff Session, his last act was to reverse course on how the DOJ would oversee the existing remediation plans in their purview. Even Milwaukee and Chicago had their work toward consent decree agreements stalled by the Trump Administration. 

Perhaps this is why the “thin blue line” was eager to support the outgoing president as he himself has proved reckless and lawless. Under his administration, there have been no new consent decrees put in place while evidence of police brutality and use of force has increased. What has changed is the public outcry and it becomes increasingly harder to ignore repeated incidents of coverups that mar the seriousness of policing and the good work being done to protect the public. 

Equality in Death

policekillingplaugeData doesn’t lie and we have arrived in a place where, according the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2019 study:

“Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States,” and, “…about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police.”

Think about that; statistically all men are at risk – particularly from the age 20 – 35 and the rate goes up for all black men. 

This mortality rate is about 1.8 men per 100,000, which is just behind the rate of cancer as a leading cause of death. Cancer. So, in essence – when it comes to police brutality and deadly use of force – American men are approaching equality in death at the hands of an unchecked police state and there will not be enough good cops to stop the hemorrhage. 

This unchecked power gave rise to a culture where good officers, the  whistleblowers are threatened, where racism and corruption thrived and were often encouraged by those within the judicial system who moved from merely supporting officers to complicity in criminal wrongdoing. In a Midwestern city like Kenosha, the example is stark, and dire. 

Serve and protect must include citizens  and must adhere to the same set of laws and accountability. In Kenosha, the corruption cannot be placated with a law that has already had loopholes exploited for the benefit of a few corrupt who are openly attempting to hold on to power to the detriment of our  entire  system.