Netflix released “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” their new series about an American serial killer, on Sept. 21. Dahmer was a notorious, vile serial killer whose victims were mostly young, Black, queer boys.
Dahmer’s committed these vile crimes over 30 years ago, so younger people — like Gen-Z — can get a glimpse of what happened during that time. However, some young people aren’t watching it due to the traumatic and gory scenes the series depicts.
While the series aims to tell the story from the victims’ perspective, it unintentionally sheds a light on how Dahmer’s whiteness and homophobia, as well as the institutionalized racism within policing, allowed for him to get away with those heinous crimes for so long.
The Netflix series clearly depicts the police being participants in Dahmer’s crimes.
[Related:Black Voices: The system of policing needs to be dismantled]
According to The New York Times, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone was returned to Dahmer, his captor and soon-to-be murderer, even though he looked visibly distraught and was bleeding.
Witnesses called the police about a boy who was naked, harmed and disoriented. It was because he had been drugged by Dahmer. Dahmer was able to convince police officers he and Sinthasomphone were “quarreling lovers,” so they returned Sinthasomphone to Dahmer. Dahmer later murdered him.
The police officers were John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabbrish. The two officers were fired, but later reinstated because the firings were “too severe a punishment.”
Both police officers were able to have long careers in law enforcement, despite being involved in one of Dahmer’s murders.
This event’s witness was Glenda Cleveland, Dahmer’s neighbor, along with her daughter and niece.
According to an article USA Today, the police could’ve caught Dahmer months earlier if they had only listened to Cleveland.
Cleveland, her daughter and niece tried to reason with the police about whether Sinthasomphone was a victim. The officers insisted he was not a victim and assured Cleveland with the lie that Dahmer and the victim were arguing lovers.
What makes this story even more heartbreaking is the fact that Sinthasomphone’s older brother Anouke Sinthasomphone had also been a victim of sexual exploitation by Dahmer a few years before his younger brother was murdered.
Cleveland not only was a witness to one of his crimes, but she called the police on numerous separate occasions and even contacted the FBI. No one cared to listen to her. Five of the 17 murders Dahmer committed happened after Cleveland tried to warn the police.
Glenda Cleveland was a Black woman who could’ve been the key to catching Dahmer, if only the police had listened to her.
[Related: Black Voices: It's time to abandon the current justice system]
The police involved with returning Sinthasomphone to Dahmer actively participated in his murder. The two officers displayed a negligence that has been displayed within the policing system since its creation.
The police have a history of ignoring the cries for help whether directly or indirectly from marginalized people.
So, there have been several opportunities for the justice system to do its job, but it failed. However, it also succeeded. It succeeded in maintaining one of its core values, preserving whiteness, by allowing Dahmer to roam the streets peacefully while preying on unsuspecting victims.