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Wisconsin lawmaker wants Sheriff David Clarke booted from office, immediately

“The people deserve a Sheriff who is committed to protect and serve, not one committed to threaten and intimidate.”

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke leaves Trump Tower. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke leaves Trump Tower. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

After years of making inflammatory statements about poor people, people of color, and women, and managing one of the deadliest jails in the country, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is under fire from a fed-up Wisconsin lawmaker. On Monday, State Rep. David Crowley (D) submitted a letter to Governor Scott Walker (R), asking for Clarke to be removed from his position at once.

“The duty bestowed upon law-enforcement officers is to protect and serve. Unfortunately, that is not what the Sheriff of Milwaukee County is most concerned with,” Crowley wrote. “Today I call on you to remove Sheriff David Clarke from office for his willful neglect of duties, repeated inappropriate and incendiary comments, his promotions of violence, and use of intimidation against innocent civilians.”

Legally, the governor can’t remove a sheriff unless he or she is convicted of a felony. But even if the governor had the power to do so under different circumstances, it is unlikely that Walker would boot Clarke. In 2015, Walker told former Fox News host Megyn Kelly that he was friends with Clarke, and regularly discussed policing with him.

In his letter, Crowley mentioned multiple deaths that occurred at the Milwaukee County Jail, including a newborn baby who died last July after staff ignored the mother during labor. Altogether, four people have died on Clarke’s watch, and a court-appointed monitor concluded that three deaths occurred because of “mistakes in medical care and/or poor monitoring,” according to Crowley’s letter. One man died because the jail cut off his water supply in solitary confinement.

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Crowley also cited offensive and dangerous statements that Clarke has made in response to protesters across the country.

“He has used the official website and Facebook page of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office to personally attack and intimidate his opponents and accusers. He has used racial slurs such as calling an African-American commentator a ‘jigaboo,’” the letter says. “Further, he has repeatedly threatened or insinuated violence, recently claiming that if people ‘messed with him’ they would get ‘knocked out.’”

Indeed, Clarke called the recent women’s march, which drew millions of supporters around the world on Saturday, a “freak show.” In the past, he called Black Lives Matter activists “black slime” that must be “eradicated from American society.” A staunch Trump supporter who was considered to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Clarke also issued a call to arms in October, in response to what he called a “rigged” election.

Crowley believes Clarke’s comments warrant action from the governor.

“The comments and actions of the Sheriff are completely unacceptable for any public official and constitute a cause for removal from office. I call on you to remove David Clarke from his position as Milwaukee County Sheriff immediately,” he wrote. “The people deserve a Sheriff who is committed to protect and serve, not one committed to threaten and intimidate.”

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On Monday, Walker indicated he is opposed to taking executive action to oust Clarke, even if the law were on his side to do so.

“Oh, I think any position, be it Sheriff or others, where they are elected by the people they are accountable to the people,” he said after receiving the letter. “And the only time, historically, a Governor has gotten involved in any of those constitutional offices is if someone’s clearly violated the law, that’s why it’s been rare.”