Sheriff Clarke’s resignation doesn’t mean struggle is over!

Many of us have looked for removal of Sheriff David Clarke from office, not only for his outlandish views on matters like gun violence (arm yourself citizens, he once urged), immigration abuses (round ‘em up and ship them back) and policing (I’ll clean up city neighborhoods better than Milwaukee police), but also because of his failed administration of the Sheriff’s Department.

Rally protesting Sheriff Clarke

A recent demonstration urging resignation of former Sheriff Clarke

How indeed could he be expected to oversee this important County department while traipsing all over the country as the darling of the NRA, Donald Trump and every anti-immigrant group in the nation?  The six deaths at the County Jail since 2016 and the fact that 70 mile an hour traffic is constant on our 55-mph freeways both point to failed management.  And yes, “the buck stops at the top” – with Sheriff Clarke.  (It’s important not to taint the hard-working and dedicated deputies for the failures at the top.)

We’re glad David Clarke is gone, perhaps to greener more lucrative pastures for him.  He’ll be the show cow of rightwing groups that want to find a token black law enforcement officer to strengthen their creds.  They’ll pay him handsomely.  Oh well!

Now, will the sheriff’s department become better run?  Will inmates of our overcrowded County Jail find themselves in safer, more suitable surroundings?  Will our many immigrants feel more at ease in their homes?

Right now, the fate of the Sheriff’s Department rests in the hands of Gov. Scott Walker, who by law gets to appoint an interim sheriff who will hold office until the Spring 2018 elections.

This is a critical appointment.

Walker, who had turned a deaf ear to any complaints about Sheriff Clarke, is likely to appoint someone who sympathizes with the departed cowboy.  According to Milwaukee Neighborhood News, Walker had not responded before to groups like the Coalition for a People’s Sheriff, a group of organizations convened to defeat Clarke because of his “incompetent,” “unethical” and “inhumane” actions.

It’s doubtful Walker will be open to involving community groups in making his decision, unless it’s the Milwaukee Association of Commerce or Republican Party.  All signs point to a political appointment.

It’s true as well that the person he appoints will have an advantage when it comes to the spring election; officeholders, even when they were appointed, usually get elected.

Nonetheless, Milwaukee County residents must continue to make noise to urge community involvement in the appointment process.  It sometimes works.  Christine Neumann-Ortiz, of Voces de la Frontera, points out that mounting pressure — including two statewide boycotts and demonstrations that attracted tens of thousands as well as the threat of lawsuits and possible criminal charges related to the jail deaths — contributed to Clarke’s departure.

If Walker ignores such citizen pressure, there’s always the election.  Sadly, the spring municipal elections are hardly noticed by too many citizens.  Voter turnout is historically low.

The time is now – seven months ahead of those elections – to organize in a real grassroots endeavor to assure that Milwaukee County elects an effective, fair-minded and humane County Sheriff who will quickly erase of the shame on a department that had been tainted by the 15-year-tenure of David Clarke.   Ken Germanson, Sept. 2, 2017.


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