Sheriff David Clarke: more grandstander than lawman

On Friday, Milwaukee County Sheriff (and general laughingstock) David Clarke released a new public service announcement advocating for residents of Milwaukee County to arm themselves because 9-1-1 is no longer their best option. Here’s the PSA:

I’m Sheriff David Clarke, and I want to talk to you about something personal…your safety. It’s no longer a spectator sport; I need you in the game, but are you ready? With officers laid-off and furloughed, simply calling 9-1-1 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back; but are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?

In response to Clarke’s PSA, Chris Moews, who challenged Sheriff David Clarke in the 2010 Democratic primary for Milwaukee County Sheriff and is currently preparing to run again in 2014, issued a statement criticizing Clarke’s call for citizen vigilantism.

“Despite the way our Sheriff carries himself, Milwaukee County is not the Wild West and telling citizens to arm themselves is not an appropriate public safety strategy,” said Moews. “The only law enforcement official who would ever recommend this as a crime-fighting policy is one who has failed to do his own job.”

Moews also noted the rift between Sheriff Clarke and County Executive Chris Abele regarding the Sheriff Department’s budget.

“A real leader is someone who has temperament,” said Moews. “The Sheriff should not be using the public airwaves with taxpayer money to complain about the budget he was given. He needs to find better ways to manage his department, not use theatrics that instill fear in our neighbors. A real Sheriff would lead a collaborative effort with the community to develop substantive solutions, not encourage vigilantism.”

What I find curious is Clarke’s statement urging citizens to arm themselves so they can defend themselves until “we” get there. Surely the “we” Clarke is referencing can’t be the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, because the last time I checked the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office under David Clarke wasn’t the first line of defense for Milwaukee County citizens who need law enforcement assistance.

David D. Haynes characterized David Clarke best in an op-ed for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when he called Clarke a grandstander first and a lawman second.