Detective who called mayor of Wauwatosa Tosa “more valuable target” is now sergeant

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Recently, the Wisconsin Examiner learned that a detective who created a PowerPoint presentation that called the mayor of Wauwatosa a “higher value target” was promoted after an internal investigation into the case was completed. The PowerPoint, which was obtained through open case requests in January, shed light on how police viewed those who supported protests against police violence in 2020.

The document was created by Joseph Lewandowski, who at the time was a detective with the Wauwatosa Police Department (WPD) assigned to the WPD Special Operations Group. The unit has several functions, including covert surveillance and retrieving data from seized phones. Lewandowski used PowerPoint for an internal briefing with two WPD supervisors, according to an internal survey. The subject of the briefing was an incident in which a gunshot was fired during a protest outside the home of former police officer Joseph Mensah.

The role of the police in our society has come under scrutiny since the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department in May. The Local Policing is an ongoing series analyzing the culture, tactics, and actions of departments large and small in Wisconsin. If you have a story to share about your local police, contact reporters Isiah Holmes and Henry Redman at [email protected] and [email protected]

The presentation identified three people as “higher value targets” for the ministry. Among them was Mayor Dennis McBride, who the presentation said was supporting the protests. Although McBride was not linked to the August incident, the slide said “no CP for Mensah shooting … yet”, referring to the probable cause. Others have also been listed directly or in association with the so-called “higher value goals”. A month later, during the Wauwatosa curfew, Detective Lewandowski disparaged McBride and lawyer Kimberley Motley – who is mentioned among the slides – during questioning of an arrested protester.

Although his supervisors were aware of the existence of PowerPoint, an internal investigation was not launched until after the Wisconsin Examiner’s first report. The investigation itself was completed in February, although it was not finalized by outgoing chef Barry Weber until March. Lewandowski was found to violate departmental policies regarding obscene or defamatory language and professional image. A written reprimand was placed on his file.

The investigation concluded that Lewandowski was “embarrassed by the distraction caused by this information and understands the gravity of the situation.” However, the investigation did not take into account Lewandowski’s comments during questioning. He also claimed that WPD “did not investigate Mayor Dennis McBride”, but did not include other reports Lewandowski wrote about McBride’s “questionable conduct” and his contacts with protesters.

Other elected Democrats perceived to support the Black Lives Matter protests were also referenced in Lewandowski’s reports. They include Representative David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa). Representative Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee), along with Bowen, is also named in the list of protesters, drawn up separately within the investigative division of WPD.

The survey recognized that the PowerPoint was relevant to the survey and that any “higher value targets” should have been referred to as “eminent persons”. The report was finalized on March 1. On April 6, just over a month after the investigation ended, Lewandowski was promoted to sergeant.

He was also removed from the Investigation Division and reassigned to the Patrol Division. Weber retired after more than 30 years as head of WPD on June 1. At the end of July, former Milwaukee PD captain and Wauwatosa native, James MacGillis, took over as chief. Besides Weber, 14 other WPD staff resigned or retired from the department between July 2020 and June 2021, or about 11% of the department.

Among those who left were two captains – including one who participated in the internal investigation – a lieutenant who became a regular face during WPD’s protest law enforcement actions, a detective, six officers including Joseph Mensah and two others who were still on probation, a parking specialist, an office clerk, a dispatcher and a support worker at the station. Lewandowski remains employed at WPD, and is now almost 20 years in the department.

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