Arts & Culture

The documentary, “Conversations with a Killer” shows how the justice system helped Jeffrey Dahmer

White privilege and homophobia gave Jeffery Dahmer more ability to commit crimes.

The Netflix series, “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” and the documentary, “Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes,” became overnight sensations after their release, receiving critical acclaim worldwide.

The story is already a dark one, as most people know, but part of the story that some haven’t appreciated until now is the way that white privilege and homophobia may have contributed to Dahmer’s ability to get away with his crimes for as long as he did.

Jeffrey Dahmer had a terrible childhood. According to people who knew him as a child, Dahmer did not have many friends. The only thing that he was interested in was dead animals and dissection. His parents divorced when he turned 18, which was a turning point for him according to Gerald Boyle, Dahmer’s lead defense attorney.

Most of Dahmer’s victims were black people. Dahmer denies any implication of racism in the recorded interviews played in the documentary. He says he mainly picks black and Asian people to be his victims because he finds them attractive.

The police could have caught Dahmer months earlier when someone saw a 14-year-old boy leaving Dahmer’s apartment, naked, bleeding and disoriented. Nicole Childress, who had been visiting a neighbour of Dahmer’s called the police immediately. However, Dahmer was able to convince the cops that the boy whose name was Konerak Sinthasomphone was an adult and it was a domestic squabble between two homosexuals. The police not only did not check his apartment but also returned the little boy to Damher. 

If they had searched his room they would have found a dead body in his room, a fridge where he stored the skeletons and organs, and big barrels of hydrochloric acid which Dahmer used to dissolve his victims’ bodies. It was an unnecessary death caused by the police’s neglect. 

The documentary released the radio transmission by the officers, which shows they were laughing in the background. During that period, gay people were always made fun of by homophobia. 

The police never asked for the witness’s name and denied the request of Glenda Cleveland — the neighbour that Childress was visiting — to double-check the boy’s age and safety. They chose Dahmer’s words over the witnesses and repeatedly expressed concerns about the two black women and witnesses in the Dahmer case. Before the case of Sinthasomphone, Cleveland had 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. 

The year in which Dahmer was most active in Milwaukee was a peak of AIDS and many people moved to different locations or died. Dahmer had a rare opportunity where people vanishing within the community was something normal. 

Milwaukee is a small city, and so the black gay community there is also very small. In most cases, poor gay men did not have a large support system, and when they said their loved ones were missing, authorities didn’t give them much attention. Michael Ross, a friend of the victim, said they know who is missing in the bar say who he is here says in the documentary that even though some in the community might suspect something bad had happened, there were no police officers or detectives who would come up to the gay bar and ask what they know about those missing people. This went on for years, no one tried to track them down.

Ross mentioned that the investigation for gay-related crimes is so slow. If victims had been white and straight, he believes the search would have been more in-depth and specific.  Family members of some victims told the filmmakers that they agreed that the police officers didn’t do enough. 

The documentary makes a powerful case that systemic racism and homophobia, both in the police department and the community, contributed to Dahmer’s killing spree. He preyed on these minorities, and the police did not protect them.

Cover image from fbi.gov

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