Graham Kilmer
Vote Tuesday

Milwaukee County Sheriff Race

Three candidates on ballot and one write-in jockey to become next Milwaukee County Sheriff.

By - Aug 8th, 2022 05:55 pm
Denita Ball, Brian Barkow and Thomas Beal.

Denita Ball, Brian Barkow and Thomas Beal.

The next Milwaukee County Sheriff will be elected Tuesday, August 9.

Four candidates, all running as Democrats, are seeking election to replace outgoing Sheriff Earnell Lucas. Whoever wins will run unopposed in the November general election. All are current employees of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The winner will serve a four-year term.

Three candidates will be on the ballot, having submitted enough nomination signatures to appear on the ballot. They are Chief Deputy Denita Ball, Inspector Brian Barkow and Captain Thomas Beal.

A fourth candidate, Lieutenant Mohamed Awad is running as a registered write-in candidate. His campaign website is linked here.

Want to see what’s on your ballot and where to vote? Visit MyVote Wisconsin to see your polling place and access a sample ballot.

Below you’ll find basic information copied verbatim from candidate campaign materials and a link to any available campaign resources. If you click on their name you’ll be brought to any stories written about the candidate. Candidate names are listed in alphabetical order.

Denita Ball

Dr. Denita Ball has dedicated her life to public service and has been driven by her passion for improving the interactions people have with law enforcement every day. When Sheriff Earnell Lucas approached her in 2018 and asked her to serve as his second in command in the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, Denita knew it was an opportunity to do even more for her community.

As the Undersheriff for Milwaukee County, Dr. Ball has been a pivotal part of the significant improvements that have been made in the agency, from turning around the formerly poor safety conditions in the county jail, to initiatives that have promoted inclusivity and created a more welcoming culture in the agency.

Now Dr. Denita Ball is running for Milwaukee County Sheriff because there’s still so much to be done to improve the office and tackle the increase in crime Milwaukee is now facing. With over 35 years of experience in law enforcement and criminal justice education, and with her time running the daily operations of the agency, Dr. Ball is uniquely qualified to take the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office to the next level and promote public safety across our county.

Dr. Ball was born to a single mom in a small town in Arkansas. She was raised by her grandmother from a young age, after her mother moved to Milwaukee. Denita’s grandmother stressed the importance of faith and education, even going as far as purchasing an encyclopedia set and other books for her granddaughter on credit. As a result, Denita’s strong faith became a central point in her life and she dedicated herself to being a lifelong learner.

By the age of nine, Denita had her first job mowing the lawn of her church and at the age of 12, she began helping her neighbor clean the building along a truck route that the drivers stopped to rest at while out on the road. She learned the importance of hard work at an early age and it’s a lesson that’s stuck with her throughout her life.

When Denita’s grandmother tragically passed away, she was placed in foster care, eventually living in two different foster homes. She remained focused on her education and graduated high school with honors in 1979. She was then awarded an academic scholarship to the University of Arkansas where Dr. Ball excelled academically and received numerous awards and honors.

Shortly after starting college, Denita pledged Delta Sigma Theta, a public service sorority that is deeply committed to social justice and service to the community.

Denita graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. A few months after graduation, Denita moved to Milwaukee to help care for her mother, who had fallen ill. Denita worked two jobs to help make ends meet, but desired to pursue her career in criminal justice.

Denita applied to work for the Milwaukee Police Department after completing a year’s residency. She then completed training at the academy and became a police officer with the force. Denita’s first assignment was in the Milwaukee Police Department’s District Two, where Black officers had only recently been permitted to work.

In 1987, Denita was introduced to Odell Ball, a former Marquette University basketball stand-out and Rufus King High School All-American. Odell was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, but instead played professional basketball overseas until he returned after an eye injury. The two became inseparable and married 11 months later. They recently celebrated 33 years of marriage.

Denita rose up the ranks in the department and graduated from numerous leadership training programs. While at the rank of Captain, she returned to school to earn a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, graduating in 2004. She continued with the Milwaukee police and was promoted to the rank of Deputy Inspector in 2005

In 2008, a lump Denita found underneath her arm tested positive for cancer. For the next year and a half, she fought for her life, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, and 33 radiation treatments that she elected to have in the morning so she could report to work afterwards. She credits the team of doctors and their staff for, through God’s will, saving her life. And Denita couldn’t have made it through that challenging time without her friends, coworkers, and church members for being by her side and supporting her through it all.

After more than 25 years of service in the department, Denita retired from the force in 2011. She left in order to pursue opportunities in higher education, where she believed she could do even more to positively impact policing by helping to shape the next generation of police officers and professionals in criminal justice. She joined Bryant & Stratton College as its Subject Matter Coordinator and later became the Criminal Justice Program manager, overseeing the entire program at its three campuses in the Milwaukee area. During her time at Bryant & Stratton, she returned to the role of student, attending Cardinal Stritch University where she earned her PhD in 2018.

Denita and her husband Odell have three children and one granddaughter, and she is a dedicated member of Providence Baptist Church.

Brian Barkow

Brian is a lifelong Milwaukee resident who has dedicated his career to keeping our community safe. Raised on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side, Brian graduated from Custer High School and worked his way through college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Brian worked in retail security and served as an auxiliary officer in the Milwaukee Police Department before joining the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy sheriff in 1997. He spent his first years with the Sheriff’s Office assigned to the Milwaukee County Jail, where he ensured the safety and well-being of individuals detained in the facility.

Brian’s supervisors recognized his leadership abilities early in his career. In 1999, Brian was one of the first two deputies assigned to Milwaukee County’s innovative Day Reporting Center, a vocational and rehabilitative center for individuals convicted of low-level offenses and a pioneering advancement in alternatives to incarceration. Brian spent seven years keeping the facility safe and using his background in computer science to engineer a business management system that tracked participants’ progress at the center. Brian’s service at the Day Reporting Center earned him an award from the Benedict Center, a community-based care and treatment provider. He was subsequently promoted to sergeant, supervising operations in the Airport Division of the Sheriff’s Office before transferring to the Criminal Investigations Division as a supervisor.

Brian subsequently served as a captain and deputy inspector in the Sheriff’s Office from 2009 to 2019, beginning this period as commander of the Criminal Investigations Division. During his time supervising investigations, Brian continued to drive technological innovation in the Sheriff’s Office. With a small team of analysts, Brian built groundbreaking business intelligence systems and databases that helped the agency improve personnel management, allocate resources more efficiently, and prevent violent crime, rather than simply react to it. Under his leadership, the Sheriff’s Office used a data-driven deployment model to address an increase in assaults and disturbances in the county parks and transit systems. Brian’s drive to innovate led him to serve as the inaugural commander of the Law Enforcement Analytics Division from 2012 to 2019. In this role, Brian and his team employed data-driven strategies to investigate and prevent acts of violent crime. Brian’s role, as LEAD commander, in preventing the 2015 murder of a state witness earned him a Letter of Commendation from the Sheriff’s Office.

After Sheriff Earnell Lucas took office in 2019, Brian served as the inspector of the Administration Services Bureau. In this role, Brian oversaw the agency’s field inspection, data analytics, and information management programs; played a leading role in violence prevention initiatives in Milwaukee County’s parks; and supervised the new Milwaukee Area Threat Reduction through Intelligence Exchange (MATRIX) Division. Brian also led the reorganization of the agency’s investigative, intelligence, and inspection units into the Investigative Services Bureau. In January 2020, Sheriff Lucas tapped Brian to command the new bureau. Under Brian’s leadership, Sheriff’s Office detectives have played a leading role in addressing increases in violent crime in Milwaukee County in 2020 and 2021. Brian also serves as the Sheriff’s Office liaison to public health partnerships aimed at violence prevention, and is a member of Milwaukee County’s Violence Reduction Public Health and Strategy Team (VR-PHAST).

Brian continues to reside on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side with his wife, Aisha, who serves as public safety director for a local college following her own distinguished career with the Sheriff’s Office. Brian and Aisha are the proud parents of two adult children.

Thomas Beal

I loved to Milwaukee from Fort Wayne, Indiana at the age of 21. After moving, I worked as an EMT for almost 10 years. I was hired by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office in April, 1997 as a Deputy Sheriff. My first assignment, after the Academy, was at the Milwaukee County Jail. While at the Jail, I was responsible for multiple duties and tasks.

In 2001, I was assigned to the Sheriff’s Drug Unit as a Detective, where I investigated drug related crimes. During that time, I worked mostly in an undercover capacity. In 2003, I was then assigned to the Patrol Division where I assisted motorists and investigated traffic accidents on our freeway system. In 2005, I was assigned to the General Investigations Bureau, which is now called the Investigative Services Division. While there, I specialized in the investigation of computer crimes against children.

I then worked at the Airport Division from 2012 through 2017. While at the Airport Division, I was promoted to Lieutenant and served as the Assistant Commander of the Airport Division. In February 2018, I was assigned to the Patrol Division as the Assistant Commander of the Patrol Division. In August 2018, I was assigned to the Internal Affairs Division where I investigated possible employee work rule violations and reviewed ‘Uses of Force’ situations throughout the agency. Throughout the years, I’ve attended various classes and trainings.

In January 2020, I was promoted to Captain, where I continue to serve as a Commander at the Milwaukee County Jail. I have first-hand knowledge of the conditions inside of the jail due to staffing shortages and other factors. It is my priority to address these issues from the first day that I take office.

With your help, I will be your next Milwaukee County Sheriff!

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More about the Fall 2022 Primary

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Categories: MKE County, Politics

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