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Sheriff Clarke's Disappearing, Big, Important, Government Job

Jun. 20, 2017
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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says he won’t take that big, important, government job that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says was only tentatively offered to him. It’s one of those classic good news, bad news stories.

The good news is there’s no longer a threat Clarke’s hateful and dangerous approach to law enforcement could endanger human lives across the country the way it has in Milwaukee. The bad news, of course, is that for now anyway Clarke’s still Milwaukee County’s sheriff.

A lot of really good folks in Milwaukee were desperately hoping Clarke would finally land the job in the Trump administration he’s been publicly groveling after for a year. It wasn’t because anyone considered Clarke remotely qualified for federal office. Few Trump appointees are.

But many were eager for Clarke to leave town for the safety of anyone incarcerated in Clarke’s jail and minorities cruising the Lakefront, just to name a couple of places where Clarke’s hostile attitude toward citizens and poor management of his own staff have resulted in deadly incidents lately.

Clarke dashed everyone’s hopes by announcing late Friday he was withdrawing as a possible assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke claimed a month ago he was taking that job, which never received approval from the Secretary of Homeland Security, retired general John F. Kelly.

Just hours before Clarke issued his withdrawal, the department announced once again there was no appointment. “Such senior positions are announced by the department when made official by the secretary,” it said. “No such announcement … has been made.” The Washington Post obtained a copy of a tentative job offer to Clarke that stated the position was subject to final approval by the office of personnel management, which never came. After Clarke publicly withdrew, the department announced: “Sheriff Clarke is no longer being considered for a position within DHS. We wish him well.”

Craig Peterson, a local political adviser to Clarke, added a couple of other bizarre details to Clarke’s announcement. Peterson said Clarke met with Donald Trump at last Tuesday’s fundraiser in Milwaukee. “Sheriff Clarke is 100% committed to the success of President Trump,” Peterson said, “and believes his skills could be better utilized to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role.”

Aggressively committing himself 100% to promoting Trump’s volatile, destructive presidency is certainly not part of Clarke’s job description as Milwaukee County sheriff.


Clarke’s Right-Wing Media Career Calls

That sounds like a description of Clarke’s more lucrative side career as a popular African American inflammatory speaker to white supremacists and other militaristic, anti-government hate groups. Clarke’s speeches to such groups attacking black protesters against unequal treatment by police as “garbage,” “subhuman creeps” and “slime [that] needs to be eradicated from American society” have been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racism, anti-Semitism and dangerous, right-wing extremism nationally.

Peterson also added: “Sheriff Clarke is reviewing options inside and outside of government.” So once again Clarke is holding out hope he could soon be leaving local law enforcement. Clarke has devoted very little attention to his job as sheriff in recent years anyway.

That still hasn’t stopped the continuing deadly consequences of the ugly top-down culture of contempt for human life Clarke has created within his department. Shortly before Clarke claimed he was being promoted by Trump, an inquest jury recommended felony criminal charges against seven of Clarke’s jail staff, including the former jail commander, for shutting off water to the cell of a mentally ill inmate for seven days to punish him, resulting in his dehydration death. Just a week and a half ago, a sheriff’s deputy fired blindly into a moving vehicle that drove onto a Lakefront median in bumper-to-bumper traffic after a minor traffic violation. The shots killed the driver and wounded one of two passengers.

No one knows whether the likelihood of perpetual embarrassment from Clarke ended the possibility of a Trump appointment to reward the sheriff for his political support. It’s difficult to imagine Trump ever worries all that much about public embarrassments, which have become a hallmark of his presidency.

The important thing is that Clarke be removed from local government in any way possible. Since Clarke’s appointment as sheriff by Republican Gov. Scott McCallum in 2002, he has shown no real understanding of the job or any ability to work with other local officials in the criminal justice system. Clarke’s real talent and his own increasing interest has been in building a public personality within the right-wing media, in the words of a shady national political fundraising effort on his behalf, as “the black Rush Limbaugh with a badge.”

The sooner Clarke turns in his badge and becomes a full-time inflammatory right-wing media personality, the better. Loudmouth right-wing media personalities promote a lot of public ignorance in modern-day America, but it rarely ever kills anybody.


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