UPDATED: Alderperson: Rusten Sheskey should be ‘given a permanent desk job’

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Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include information from KPD documents released online concerning the Sheskey investigation as of 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

- Daniel Thompson

KENOSHA ⏤ During the alderpersons’ comments portion of Monday’s City Council meeting, Dist. 4 Ald. Holly Kangas expressed her frustration over the missing gun of Officer Rusten Sheskey.

Dist. 4 Ald. Holly Kangas delivers her remarks on the current situation with the employment of KPD Officer Rusten Sheskey on May 3, 2021. Video property of Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

Sheskey, while on duty, shot Jacob Blake seven times on Aug. 23, 2020. Sheskey’s actions sparked two nights of riots in the city, causing millions in damage.

Missing service weapon

Dist. 4 Ald. Kangas did not hold back any of her frustration and disappointment with the current Sheskey situation.

Shortly after former Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis announced that Sheskey would not be disciplined, it came to light he had lost a service weapon.

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According to a report from WISN, this weapon had been given to Sheskey after his regular weapon, which was involved in the Blake shooting, was taken from him for the investigation.

The replacement gun was then stolen from the glovebox of Sheskey’s girlfriend’s car in September 2020. It has still not been recovered. 

The WISN report also quotes department officials as stating that they waited until they saw whether Sheskey would be disciplined or possibly terminated because of the Blake shooting.

After it was determined he would not be, they moved forward with the investigation of the missing gun.

Kangas: Why was he even issued a second gun?

However, the fact that the department even gave Sheskey any replacement weapon perplexed Kangas.

“Why in the world would he be given another weapon while he is on administrative leave? What possible reason could he have while he’s on leave? And why would anyone, much less a police officer, leave their issued weapon in a glovebox that may or may not have been locked.”

Dist. 4 Ald. Holly Kangas

“Is that not something they teach in the training now? Seriously.”

She also expressed her dismay at the fact that investigators did not look into the issue, reported in September 2020, until April 2021.

Kangas also took issue that she learned of the matter from the news instead of department officials.

“I’m no investigator, but isn’t it true that the more time that goes by, the harder it is to solve a crime?” she asked, rhetorically. “Also, I find it insulting that we regularly get police updates, but I had to find this out on the news and on the TV.”

Kangas: How long until that gun is used to harm someone?

Perhaps Kangas’ biggest frustration stems from the now seemingly hypocritical message from the department on gun safety.

“Our very own police department regularly states to the public that guns should never be left in cars,” she said. “And that guns left in cars cause and are used in crimes. How long before Officer Sheskey’s weapon is used to shoot and possibly kill somebody? Possibly even a police officer?

“When we are all trying to get guns off the streets, one of our very own put one out there. It’s really just unfathomable.”

Ald. Holly Kangas

Kangas: Sheskey obviously doesn’t take position seriously

For Kangas, the fact that Sheskey left his replacement weapon in a car that may or may not have been locked after everything that has happened means he doesn’t take his work seriously.

“And while we cannot hold him accountable for the Aug. 23 shooting because he acted within the law, he has since displayed a complete lack of awareness of the responsibilities required of a Kenosha police officer,” Kangas added. “Three days without pay, in my opinion, does not commensurate with the severity of losing your service weapon.

“If Officer Sheskey is to remain on the police force, I suggest he be given a permanent desk job.”

Ald. Holly Kangas

Kennedy highlights different reactions of military and KPD to lost weapon

Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy, who served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1991, spoke of a time someone lost a weapon during a training mission.

Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy’s comments on the KPD and Officer Rusten Sheskey during the City Council’s May 3, 2021, meeting. Video property of Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

He recalled he had been on a training mission in a field in Germany in September 1990. There, someone lost a .45 caliber gun. 

“Everything stopped until we found that weapon. It took 10 hours to find that weapon. And we unpacked tents. We packed and unpacked those at least a couple of times. … We worked until we found that weapon.”

Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy

The whole group searched endlessly until it was found.

“It was the most important thing to do,” he said. “And this is a training situation. I never served in a combat element. I’ve never served in combat. I was in the peacetime Army.

“But it was so important, the recovery of that weapon, that nothing else was going to happen until that weapon was recovered.”

He added that he’s sure the KPD has its reasons for giving Sheskey a second weapon, but they have not been transparent about it.

“As a member of this community, as a person who asks questions repeatedly as far as what’s going on, I don’t have an answer to this,” Kenned said.

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KENNEDY: Does the decision not to act fall under Section 17.5?

He also questioned what part of department policy it used in order to determine the three-day suspension Sheskey received for losing his replacement weapon. 

The policy Kennedy referenced Monday night is Section 17.5 of the Kenosha Police Department Policy and Procedures, concerning care of property. 

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That policy states:

“Every member of the Kenosha Police Department shall conserve and protect City property. Members of the department are responsible for the protection and care of all City property, specifically property assigned to their use or custody. Roughness, abuse, misuse, or willful and negligent loss or destruction of city property shall not be tolerated. Commanding Officers will be responsible for the strict enforcement of this policy.”

Policy last revised in 2014

The department first created Section 17.5 on Dec. 14, 1983. Officials last updated it on March 6, 2014. 

“If the loss of a weapon falls under 17.5, then I would strongly suggest that Kenosha Police administration that 17.5 needs to be updated,” Kennedy said. “If 17.5 is not relevant to the loss of a weapon, then I’d ask police administration to please direct me to the area that is relevant.

“And if that record doesn’t talk about making a determination for the suspension or termination of a person who loses a weapon, then I would really like to know why that isn’t part of it and would urge the revision of that policy.”

Ald. Anthony Kennedy

KENNEDY: We need to know when and where things happen

For Kennedy, the issue truly boils down to transparency.

“I used to say, I think, the most honest thing I could say is, ‘I don’t know,’” he said. “But now, it’s hard to say, ‘I don’t know,’ because there are people who believe there are nefarious reasons for me not knowing.

“I don’t believe that’s true. But again, I don’t have the answers to dispute that.”

While he feels that the community tasks local officers with too many things that could be “handled on a community basis,” the city needs answers, he said.

“But having said that, we need to know where and when some of these things are happening so that we can talk to people in an honest manner.

I hope there can be a more in-depth brief about what’s going on here.”

Ald. Anthony Kennedy

Online documents show KPD reasoning

According to documents released online by local activists as a result of open records requests, the reasoning of the department is becoming more clear. 

In a copy of a letter from then-Chief Miskinis to Sheskey, dated April 14, 2021, Miskinis explains the factual findings of the investigation to Sheskey. 

He states that on Sept. 15, 2021, someone stole Sheskey’s replacement firearm from his girlfriend’s vehicle. 

“At the time of this incident, you were on administrative leave and were not in your normal routine nor were you staying at your residence due to high volumes of threats, directed at you and your family. You were displaced, and undoubtedly experienced high levels of stress,” Miskinis writes.

Those factors were considered, he further states.

“And although they mitigate the matter, to some degree, they do not provide exemption from policy or justify the lack of appropriate security and control of the handgun,” Miskinis concludes.

The violation, levied from Section 17.5, carried with it a three-day suspension and required training on care of department property.

Theft investigated by the Racine Police Department

According to the online documents, though the KPD did not investigate it until April 2021, Racine Police officers started an investigation the next day.

An incident report dated 2:20 p.m. Sept. 16, 2020, shows that Sheskey reported the theft of the Glock 37 handgun to RPD. 

The overall value of the gun is listed as being $500 in the report, and identified as being property of the KPD. 

RPD officer Natalie Longrie noted in her report at that time that “there were no signs of forced entry.”

“The glove box and middle console were both unlocked and closed when I arrived on the scene,” she reported.

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