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The hit Netflix limited series, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, tells the story of American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, and his killings that occurred between 1978 and 1991. While the show is a fictionalized retelling, the events are based on the real murders he got away with for over a decade without detection.
Now, true-crime fans are getting another series, Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes, which is officially out on Netflix. The chilling docuseries will allow viewers to hear Dahmer's internal discussions with his defense team.
One of officers involved in Dahmer's case, John Balcerzak, also found himself in hot water with his partner, at the time, Joseph Gabrish. The two faced major backlash for disregarding Cleveland's warnings.
But where is John Balcerzak now, and what role did he have in the murder of one of Dahmer's victims? Read on for the details.
Who is John Balcerzak?
John Balcerzak was a Milwaukee officer who was involved with the Jeffrey Dahmer case.
Balcerzak, then 34, and his Gabrish, then 28, responded on scene when Dahmer's neighbors called about a bleeding, naked 14-year-old boy. Instead of listening to the citizens' concerns, the police officers allowed the underage boy to return to Dahmer's apartment, where he was killed.
The two became known as the “Dahmer cops” after the case gained more publicity, per The Tab.
Why was John Balcerzak fired from the police force after catching Jeffrey Dahmer?
The first thing to know is that one of Dahmer's neighbors, a woman named Glenda Cleveland, called the police several times after noticing his suspicious behavior.
John Balcerzak and his partner enter the story after responding to a call to find Cleveland's daughter and niece with a 14-year-old boy who was naked, bleeding, and seemingly in an altered state. However, when police arrived on the scene, Dahmer showed up and insisted that the boy was his 19-year-old lover who'd had too much to drink, per The Cinemaholic.
The women asked that the 14-year-old son of Laotian immigrants, Konerak Sinthasomphone, who had been drugged and brutalized by Dahmer, be taken to a safe place, per Decider. However, the officers allowed Dahmer to take the boy back to his apartment, listing the incident as a "domestic squabble between homosexuals," per The U.S. Sun. Sinthasomphone was later killed.
Afterwards, the two officers were allegedly recorded making homophobic jokes to their dispatcher, according to Decider—joking that they were "reuniting the lovers." Police recordings from the time also showed that "one officer laughed about needing to be 'deloused' after leaving Dahmer’s apartment" and that the officers dismissed a witness who "called back and insisted six times police had left an endangered boy behind," AP News reported.
(When later asked about some of the comments, Balcerzak said: "It is a type of transmission that is commonplace, that type of jocularity," per AP News and Newsweek.)
Days later, after seeing Sinthasomphone’s missing photo in the newspaper, Cleveland called the police again, only to be ignored once more. She even tried calling the FBI, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
As the Dahmer case unraveled, it became clear that the mass murderer had targeted mainly gay men and boys of color. It was also clear that the authorities ignored warnings from Black community members, and instead, trusted Dahmer.
Balcerzak stood his ground on his decision.
"At the time, with the information we had—to this day, I think we did the appropriate thing, the best that we could,″ Balcerzak said in his first interview after Dahmer's arrest, per AP News.
Both officers also noted that Dahmer had been calm and cooperative when they confronted him about the boy. In response to why Cleveland's previous calls weren't taken into consideration, Balcerzak revealed that he felt he had more evidence.
″She wasn’t actually there,″ he said. ″I felt that my firsthand knowledge was more informative than what she had heard from someone else,″ per AP News.
Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Milwaukee after the Dahmer case.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights leader, Baptist minister, and politician, went to Milwaukee in August of 1991, to console the community and call out the handling of the case, per Encyclopedia Britannica.
During his visit, Jackson delivered a speech, which is reenacted in the limited series, and highlighted the double standard between police treatment of Black and white citizens, per TheFocus and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He called for accountability and an acknowledgment of the systemic racism that was apparent in the case. ″There must be some results from the investigation and there must be some remedy,″ he told the Associated Press in 1991.
Jackson wanted to make clear that "Dahmer’s crimes weren’t committed in a vacuum,” and that “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.”
And he called attention to the fact that Cleveland's concerns were ignored. “Police chose the word of a killer over an innocent woman,” he told her, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Why was John Balcerzak reinstated on the police force?
In 1994, Reserve Judge Robert Parins ruled that firing Balcerzak and his partner was too harsh of a punishment. He added that both should be reinstated on the police force and should receive back pay of $55,000 each, per AP News.
However, the Fire and Police Commission voted 4-1 to appeal the decision to reinstate the cops. The president of the Police Association (the police union for officers in Milwaukee), Bradley DeBraska, said that appealing the judge's decision was "gutless," AP News reported.
Still, Balcerzak was not only reinstated, but he was also voted as the president of the Milwaukee Police Association, holding the position from 2005 to 2009.
Where is John Balcerzak now?
John Balcerzak retired from the force in 2017 and is now around 65 years old. He still lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to The Cinemaholic. He also reportedly owns a tavern, per AP News. His partner, Gabrish, became a police officer in Grafton after the incident.
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