Dr. Denita Ball Becomes the First Female Sheriff in Milwaukee County History, the First in State History

Photos courtesy of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office

On Jan 6, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office appointed Dr. Denita Ball as their 66th sheriff at a public ceremony held at the Milwaukee County War Memorial. She is the first female sheriff in Milwaukee County history and the first Black female sheriff in Wisconsin history. This monumental event was filled with joy as Ball received immense support from the community as she took her oath. 

Ball’s years of leadership, service, and commitment to community was just what Milwaukee County needed to build and nurture positive relationships between the community and law enforcement. 

“We all have a key to what we can do to make our county better,” Ball said. “We can’t be in our individual silos. We can’t be in our individual groups. We have to come together and decide what we’re going to do. We need to work together, not so we can meet and meet again, but we should meet with a purpose.” 

The National Sheriffs’ Association there are nearly 3,100 sheriffs across the country. Less than 2% of America’s sheriffs are women.

After more than 25 years of service in the Milwaukee Police Department, Ball retired from the force in 2011. She left in order to pursue opportunities in higher education, where she sought to have a greater impact on law enforcement by helping mold future police officers and other criminal justice professionals. She served as the subject matter coordinator for Bryant & Stratton College’s criminal justice program and later became the program manager, overseeing its three campuses in Milwaukee. During her time at Bryant & Stratton, she returned to the role of student, attending Cardinal Stritch University where she earned her Ph.D., in 2018.  

For three years, Ball has served as the second-in command to Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas. Although they were proud of the work and progress that they had made, Ball was aware that more needed to be done. She knows that any success will only be possible if the community is involved. 

“The cornerstone to my administration will be service,” Ball said during her ceremonial speech. Service to the community. “I want to work with our community groups, they have great ideas. Can you imagine what we could do if we came together and worked together?” 

Ball is looking forward to changing the way people view law enforcement in general. She believes that if she can help people feel safe and comfortable when interacting with law enforcement, it will go a long way toward building trust between the public and police officers. 

“We genuinely want to help people,” Ball said. 

Since taking office, Ball has already begun to establish relationships with the community. 

“I’ve been attending a lot of meetings and meetings with my chaplain because I want them to do even more with those that are incarcerated,” she said. “Anyone that has a love for this community and is working to make a difference, I’m willing to sit down and talk about how we can be a partner.”