Prosecution rests in the trial of the protestor “target list” created by Wauwatosa Police Department in 2020

May 4, 2023

Barbara With

The prosecution has rested in the trial of Crime Analyst Dominick Ratkowski and Wautatosa Police Officer Joseph Roy for the creation of a “target list” during the 2020 protests of the death of three young men killed by Wauwatosa Police Department Officer Joseph Mensah.

Jay Johnson, Jr., Antonio Gonzales, and Alvin Cole were killed by Wauwatosa Police Officer Mensah over the course of four years.

The suit claims that Ratkowski and Roy were reckless with the information they obtained through the Department of Transportation and violated the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) by releasing the records for purposes other than allowed by the Act. Over 200 people were added to the target list, but 44 plaintiffs were directly impacted by release of DOT information.

Throughout the trial, the defense claimed that defendants needed to create the list in order to manage the growing protests in Wauwatosa after the George Floyd murder in 2020 in Minneapolis. Ratkowsi contradicted himself several times about the term “target list,” as transcripts from the two pre-trial depositions proved, denying at one point that it was created to target protestors. He also admitted sending it out to non-law enforcement parties who did not request it. Diane Nelson, a Minneapolis-area detective testified that she was shared the target list by Milwaukee County Sheriff Brian Conte, who was instructed by Ratkowski to “feel free to pass this along to who you think would find it useful.”

No one ordered or requested Ratkowski to create the list he labeled “TPR Target List,” referring to a loose affiliation of concerned citizens who called themselves “The People’s Revolution.” After the third killing, of Alvin Cole in February 2020, neighbors committed to using their first amendments rights to peacefully protest the tragic deaths in the community at the hand of one officer. Mensah was never charged and continues to work in law enforcement in Waukesha.

TPR protests went on for over 400 days straight. Sometimes large crowds would be marching through a neighborhood and people would spontaneously join, like Pete Sparks, a plaintiff who lived in Milwaukee and became engaged in the marches when they went by his home. Sparks testified to being jumped by several masked “paramilitary-types” who didn’t identify themselves and taken to the Wauwatosa Police Department and arrested.

Ratkowski testified that he decided who would go on the list based on their participation in protests, and his determination if they would be likely to commit a crime. Yet when tasked to define “crime,” the crime analyst himself could not articulate a definition.

Roy admitted that he never told any of the recipients of the information about the sensitive nature of the information. And though he described the WPD as a model for responding to Wisconsin’s open records law, internal emails revealed WPD discussing ways to charge high fees to block requested records from being released. The Wisconsin Examiner and other organizations have unfulfilled records requests with WPD going back to 2021.

The testimony from the defendants reveals the degree to which law enforcement has targeted citizens exercising their constitutional rights. Anyone posting videos, photos or comments on social media about the protests were stalked, and many were then swept up and put onto the list that was shared openly with police departments, crime analysts and the FBI, as if they were suspects to a crime.

Since the release of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s documents in 2013 showing the massive surveillance already taking place on Americans by their government, the disturbing fact is how many US citizens are now being referred to as “domestic terrorists” by the FBI. From parents complaining at school board meetings to Kimberly Motley, the human-rights attorney who is representing the 44 plaintiffs on the WPD target list, US citizens are being wrongly accused and treated as if they are threats.

Closing arguments will take place tomorrow at 8:30 AM before the jury deliberates.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs Kathryn Knowlton, Kimberley Motley and Milo Schwab

Tags: , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: