Why Rev. Jackson Called Out Police Racism In The Jeffrey Dahmer Case

Photo credit: ABC Photo Archives - Getty Images
Photo credit: ABC Photo Archives - Getty Images

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Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Netflix’s newest true crime limited series, presents a fictionalized retelling of American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s life, while also touching on his gruesome murders and terrible crimes.

Most of Dahmer's victims—boys and men between the ages of 14 and 33—were also people of color or Black men. And several people of color who raised the alarm about Jeffrey Dahmer, calling the police about his strange behavior, were ignored, including his neighbor, Glenda Cleveland, and Tracy Edwards, the very man who escaped from Dahmer's clutches and turned him in to the police.

Another prominent figure in the unfolding of these murders was Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. After Dahmer's arrest, Jackson visited Milwaukee to speak out against the handling of the case and the double standard the local police held for Black and white citizens.

Ahead, learn about Reverend Jackson, why he traveled to Milwaukee, and how Glenda Cleveland fits in with his story.

Who is Jesse Jackson?

Jesse Jackson is an American civil rights leader, Baptist minister, and politician, per Encyclopedia Britannica. He also played a significant role in Jeffrey Dahmer’s crime story by speaking out against the way the local police department handled his crimes. But more on that in a sec.

The police ignored the Black community and communities of color as Dahmer committed his crimes.

As the Dahmer story unraveled, it became clear that Dahmer had mostly targeted gay men of color—and that police had ignored warnings and calls from Black community members. Instead, law enforcement gave Dahmer the benefit of the doubt.

In one instance, Glenda Cleveland's daughter and niece, Sandra Smith and Nicole Childress, witnessed a "dazed and naked" teenager named Konerak Sinthasomphone, trying to escape Jeffrey Dahmer in an alley on May 27, 1991, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. They called the police.

Sinthasomphone was the child of Laotian immigrants, while Smith and Childress were Black women.

When Officer John Balcerzak and his partner arrived at the scene, Dahmer claimed the 14-year-old was his drunk 19-year-old boyfriend and that they'd just been fighting. And although the women asked that the boy be taken to a safe place, police officers allowed Dahmer to take him back to his apartment, where he was later murdered. (Both officers were later fired after being found guilty of gross negligence, according to Justia, but were then reinstated.)

It didn't stop there. After seeing Sinthasomphone’s photo in the newspaper a few days later, Cleveland called the police again, only to be ignored once more. She even tried calling the FBI, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Five more people were murdered by Dahmer after Cleveland's calls, including 14-year-old Sinthasomphone, according to TheFocus.)

Dahmer was only arrested after one of his potential victims escaped and finally convinced the police to search the killer's apartment.

Why did Jesse Jackson come to Milwaukee after the Dahmer news broke?

Rev. Jesse Jackson went to Milwaukee in August of 1991 to address the Black community there, as well as to encourage the authorities to take accountability for their actions. He gave a speech, which is reenacted in the limited series that highlighted the double standard between police treatment of Black and white citizens, per TheFocus and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

At the time, Jackson stated that police at the local, state and national level should be scrutinized for racism, the Associated Press reported. ″There must be some results from the investigation and there must be some remedy,″ he told the outlet.

Friends and family of Sinthasomphone also planned a demonstration asking for a federal investigation into the Milwaukee Police Department, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Jackson met Dahmer's neighbor, Glenda Cleveland.

During Jackson's visit, he met with Milwaukee Mayor John O. Norquist for about a half hour and later said he was ″in no position to judge″ the police chief, per the Associated Press.

Later that same day, Jackson spoke from the steps of St. Luke's Baptist Church in Milwaukee on August 8, 1991, during a rally for the families of Dahmer's victims, leading roughly 1,000 people in the chant, ″Keep hope alive," the AP and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He also led a march from Dahmer's apartment to the church.

Jackson also met with Cleveland, telling her, “Police chose the word of a killer over an innocent woman,” per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

What did Jesse Jackson say about the police?

In the eighth episode of Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Jackson addressed a large crowd with the following speech, per TheFocus:

“Today, the city of Milwaukee is hurting. Jeffrey Dahmer’s heinous crimes have not only shocked the nation, they’ve inflicted a painful, devastating wound on this community," he said. "Now, some folks have asked me ‘Reverend why you going out to Milwaukee? Dahmer’s been caught aren’t you just stirring up more division?’ to those folks I say I come here today not to sow division but to call for accountability."

Jackson continued: "Dahmer’s crimes weren’t committed in a vacuum, many people including officers of the law turned a blind eye which is why he was able to do what he did for so long.”

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