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Police officers fired in Dahmer case seek jobs back

By LORI McGINNIS

MILWAUKEE -- Police officers John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish thought they had stepped into a domestic dispute when they found a naked, bleeding and dazed young man running away from a man who said he was his homosexual lover.

Little did they know that the youth was only 14 years old and the man was serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer told the officers he and his lover had just had a fight and he would attempt to patch things up.

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Balcerzak and Gabrish returned the disoriented youth to Dahmer and left. It was May 27, 1991. Two months later, Dahmer was arrested and it was learned that the 14-year-old, Konerak Sinthasomphone, was one of his 17 victims.

Police Chief Philip Arreola fired the officers. On Tuesday, they will go before the city's Fire and Police Commission and ask for their jobs back.

Dahmer, who was convicted of 15 murders and apologized to the officers during his sentencing, may testify on their behalf.

Commission Chairman M. Nicol Padway said it will be up to the five- member panel to determine whether the officers violated regulations. If they did, the commission must rule whether their firings were just, or whether other disciplinary action such as suspension or reprimand would be more appropriate.

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'The burden will be with the chief' to prove the firings were warranted, Padway said.

Arreola will attempt to prove he was right when he said on Sept. 9, 1991, the officers 'failed to perform their duties in conformity with the training they had received.'

Another officer with Balcerzak and Gabrish during the Sinthasomphone incident, rookie Richard Porubcan, 26, was suspended and has since returned to the police force.

Arreola decided not to fire Porubcan because he was relatively inexperienced. But he said the more experienced officers, Balcerak, 35, and Gabrish, 29, failed to take a number of steps that should have taken.

He said they did not take any names and failed to conduct an investigation. Furthermore, Balcerzak ignored the pleas of a witness who called him later to say she was sure the disoriented youth was a child.

The officers said they believed the youth was an adult and was simply involved in a drunken dispute with his lover.

Brad DeBraska, president of the Milwaukee Police Association, sides with the officers, maintaining the police chief does not understand police officers must rely on their own discretion when patrolling the streets.

Padway said the hearing could last several weeks. If Dahmer is called as a witness, the commission likely would travel to Columbia Correctional Institute in Portage to hear his testimony.

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'It would appear that is going to be the arrangement,' he said. 'The most feasible way of obtaining his testimony if he is called as a witness would be to go there.'

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