Where is John Balcerzak today? His life after retirement

John Balcerzak

John A. Balcerzak was the officer who arrested Jeffrey Dahmer on 22nd July 1991 – but as depicted in Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, Balcerzak could have arrested Dahmer two months earlier, preventing the deaths of five of his victims. 

In May 1991, Balcerzak and his partner at the time, Joseph Gabrish, responded to a 911 call from Sandra Smith and Nicole Childress. Sandra and Nicole had found Konerak Sinthasomphone, a 14-year-old Laotian, wandering around the neighborhood naked and bleeding, with Dahmer pursuing him. 

To Sandra and Nicole’s surprise, the police handed Konerak to Dahmer, convinced Sinthasomphone was Dahmer’s adult gay lover. Jeffrey later admitted that he killed Konerak soon after the officers left. 

Balcerzak lives in Milwaukee after retiring from the force in 2017 

John Balcerzak
John Balcerzak (left) retired in 2017 | Photo by MilwaukeePolice/Twitter

John Balcerzak resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, following his retirement from the force in 2017. In the late 90s, AP reported that Balcerzak ran a tavern – it’s unclear if he still operates such a business. 

The Milwaukee Police Department faced backlash in 2020 after netizens stumbled onto a tweet congratulating Balcerzak for his years of service. Dana Schwartz tweeted in response:

“John Balcerzak was one of the two police officers who were called to investigate the 911 call about a drugged, bleeding 14-year-old Laotian immigrant who escaped from Jeffrey Dahmer. The policemen made gay jokes and left. The boy was raped, killed, and dismembered that night.”

Victoria Marin tweeted that the two officers were accessories to murder. In September 1991, Balcerzak and Gabrish were dismissed by police chief Phillip Arreola after an investigation found the two officers guilty of gross negligence. 

Three years later, as the fervor about Dahmer’s killings died down, Reserve Judge Robert Parins reinstated Balcerzak and Gabrish, ruling that dismissal was too harsh of a punishment. Judge Parins further ordered that the pair receive $55,000 in back pay. 

The Fire and Police Commission’s appeal against the ruling failed. Balcerzak went on to have a somewhat successful police career, which included a much-maligned stint as president of the Milwaukee Police association from 2005 to 2009. 

John was criticized for lacking leadership skills and being racist. Balcerzak showed that he didn’t care for the interests of the young and minority members of the association. For instance, Balcerzak refused to help Alfonso Glover, a black officer facing homicide charges for shooting an unarmed man. 

Balcerzak ruffled feathers with the old guard, including Lenard Wells, then a retired police officer serving as state Parole Commission Chairman. Sebastian Raclaw, a young white police officer, resigned as union Vice President, citing issues with Balcerzak’s leadership style. “He was closer to the African-American officers than Balcerzak,” Lenard told The Milwaukee Magazine

As the outlet predicted, Balcerzak failed in his re-election bid.

Balcerzak insisted he and Gabrish acted appropriately when dealing with Dahmer

After questioning Dahmer and ignoring Sandra and Nicole, Balcerzak listed the incident as ‘a domestic squabble between homosexuals.’ Decider reported that the two officers sent homophobic messages to their dispatcher. Recordings showed that one of the officers joked about needing to be ‘deloused’ after leaving the killer’s apartment. 

Delousing is treating an animal or human to rid them of parasites. Recordings also showed the officers dismissed a witness who called back several times insisting they had left an endangered boy behind. 

The witness was Glenda Cleveland, who found her daughter, Sandra Smith, distressed after police handed Konerak back to Dahmer. Glenda called the Milwaukee Police Department repeatedly and was eventually connected to Balcerzak. 

The duo’s conversation features in episode two of Netflix’s Dahmer series. “I can’t do anything about somebody’s sexual preferences in life,” Balcerzak said, insisting Konerak was an adult. Cleveland reiterated that her concern was only about the boy’s age, not his sexuality. Glenda even tried to alert the FBI but received no assistance. 

“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, per AP News. “She wasn’t actually there. I felt that my firsthand knowledge was more informative than what she had heard from someone else.”

As Reverend Jesse Jackson later pointed out, Balcerzak ignored Sandra, Childress, and Glenda because they were black. In a speech delivered during his August 1991 visit to Milwaukee, Reverend Jackson decried the disparity in police treatment of Black and white citizens. 

Reverend Jackson called for the rectification of the racist system that prevented Dahmer’s arrest in May 1991: “There must be some results from the investigation and there must be some remedy. Police chose the word of a serial killer over an innocent woman.”