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The Sheriff vs. Everybody

Oct. 2, 2012
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david clarke
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke seems to have some sort of personality disorder that prevents him from cooperating with or showing even minimal respect for other elected officials, who he regularly calls “puke politicians.”

How someone constantly running for office such as Clarke can consider himself anything other than a politician, puke variety or otherwise, is a mystery.

Clarke refers to himself in speeches as “a man alone.” That’s pretty accurate. There’s no evidence he can get along with anybody.

Clarke’s latest addition to his long list of political enemies is the amiable Mayor Tom Barrett, after Barrett reached agreement with County Executive Chris Abele to allow city police to patrol Milwaukee parks and the lakefront and handle 911 calls at about half the cost to taxpayers.

Abele already was on Clarke’s PP list for exercising his budget authority to reduce some of the spending within Clarke’s department.

In Clarke’s book, that makes Abele soft on crime. Of course, in Clarke’s book, everyone except Clarke is soft on crime.

That includes District Attorney John Chisholm, Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers and every judge in Milwaukee County who doesn’t incarcerate everyone for as long as the sheriff wants, no matter the cost in money and lives.

The sheriff was so distraught that the district attorney declined to charge someone who used Facebook to attack one of Clarke’s favorite right-wing talk-show hosts, he argued as sheriff he should have charging authority in addition to his arrest powers.

Why stop there? Since judges don’t always do what Clarke wants either, he obviously needs his own sentencing power. The Man Alone could replace the entire criminal justice system as a one-stop shop.


Public Embarrassment

Clarke originally became a right-wing talk-show hero for denouncing every black official other than himself. But his childishness and crudeness are becoming a public embarrassment.

When County Supervisor John Weishan questioned, reasonably enough, why Clarke provided security for Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in neighboring Waukesha County while limiting security for President Barack Obama in Milwaukee, Clarke’s vulgar response was: "Apparently this partisan hack has pulled his head out of his ass once again to say something stupid. The next time little boy Weishan says something intelligent or accurate will be the first.”

That wasn’t some unplanned, off-the-cuff remark. It was an official statement released from the Office of the Sheriff.

The low common denominator listening to right-wing talk radio may still enjoy Clarke’s idea of intelligent discourse, but he’s crossed into a danger area where not even they support him.

Clarke foolishly expects suburban Republicans, who think voting for Clarke proves they’re not racists, also to stand with him against cutting unnecessary government spending. Heck, they don’t even like necessary government spending.

An earlier question from Weishan that Clarke denounced as stupid was why, under an already tight budget, Clarke spent $75,000 to buy 565 new Glock handguns for a department of only 275 deputies already well-armed with handguns.

A recent county audit also revealed that since 2008 Clarke has spent more than $800,000 in crime-prevention funds on non-law-enforcement purposes such as exercise equipment, Disney Destinations customer service training, flat-screen TVs, amenities for horses and high-performance metal detectors to screen deputies and other employees before they meet with Clarke for disciplinary hearings.

In his constant war on his own department, Clarke disciplines so many deputies—at great additional county cost since he frequently loses grievances, appeals and legal challenges—that those metal detectors have to be heavy duty.

However, it seems unlikely Disney training lessons show Mickey addressing Goofy and Donald as “pukes” with their heads inserted into awkward portions of their animated anatomies.

Even Clarke-friendly conservatives are unlikely to support wasteful public spending just because Clarke is the one doing it.

That’s why Clarke’s public battle against a sensible merger of city and county policing at reduced cost to taxpayers is doomed.

Trying to make it look as if Abele’s previous reductions for his department were excessive, Clarke already had eliminated most park patrols. Since the parks and the lakefront are adjacent to neighborhoods being policed by the city, it makes perfect sense for the department to take them over.

What really upsets Clarke is the loss of what he calls his command center, a tin trailer that sits on the lakefront all summer with his office’s name emblazoned on the side as a political billboard.

Clarke doesn’t really spend any time commanding anyone from it. It’s Clarke’s version of Guantanamo Bay. Suspects are caged there until enough of them have been rounded up to warrant a trip Downtown.

In an odd way, Clarke’s disagreeable personality may ultimately be responsible for some long-overdue government reforms and financial efficiencies.

Clarke makes such a public spectacle of not working well with others that he encourages them to streamline government services so they won’t have to work with him.


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