Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Sheriff Denita Ball Shuffles Jail Leadership

Joshua Briggs new director and commander. Inspector Aaron Dobson now leads courts.

By - Apr 28th, 2023 11:18 am
Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball has made a leadership change at the Milwaukee County Jail.

A former captain in the jail, Joshua Briggs, is now leading the facility as the new director and commander of the Milwaukee County Jail. He replaces  Inspector Aaron Dobson, the new Milwaukee County Courts Commander overseeing courthouse security and the civil process division.

“Inspector Aaron Dobson, who has been with MCSO since January 1999, remains with the agency in good standing – in great standing, frankly,” said James Burnett, acting chief of staff and director of public affairs and community engagement.

Briggs was appointed commander of the jail in December. He has been a member of the MCSO since 2010, working his way up the ranks as a correctional officer. For that reason, Briggs is not a “sworn” law enforcement officer and per MCSO policy cannot be given the rank of inspector. As director, he holds the non-sworn equivalent of inspector and sits on Ball’s Executive Command Staff.

Dobson had served as jail commander since 2017. The newly created courts commander position “called for an experienced hand at the highest rank,” said Burnett. Dobson has “a stellar reputation as an honest and thoughtful leader of the MCJ.”

In this new position, Dobson will be in charge of security at the courthouse complex, as well as the public safety building and the Vel R. Philips Juvenile Justice Center, and courtroom security involving bailiffs and prisoner transport. He will also oversee the county’s Public Safety Officers who provide security at the entrances and exits to the courthouse and the Civil Process Unit.

Moving Dobson to courthouse commander was good timing, Burnett said, because “it accommodated Director Briggs’s having demonstrated that he was well positioned to step up a rank and lead the jail.”

The jail has been struggling with staffing and has regularly only been 50% staffed, leading to heavy reliance on forced overtime.

In less than 12  the jail has had four in-custody deaths. In one death, a correctional officer was recently charged with a felony for falsifying a record after failing to perform a safety check on an inmate that was later discovered dead.

Members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors have begun calling for an audit of jail policies for “suicide prevention and monitoring, the reporting of incidents to families of the deceased, the use of solitary confinement, and staffing levels for medical, correction and mental health employees,” and have announced plans to introduce legislation leading to that effect.

The jail has been subject to a court-ordered consent decree and monitoring of inmate health care since 2001 as part of a resolution to lawsuit, Christensen v. Milwaukee County, filed over constitutional violations and unsafe living conditions. This decree requires independent monitoring of healthcare and population levels at the jail.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that Commander Briggs is not the first person of color to serve as commander of the jail.

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Categories: Public Safety

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