Sheriff Clarke ordered an integrity check of the security provisions at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. This is certainly something I would expect the Sheriff’s Department do on a random but periodic basis. A deputy sheriff approached each entrance to the courthouse with a gun tucked in her waistband and she set off the alarm. When the security guards used a hand held wand, the deputy showed them her belt buckle and they waved her through. She was able to gain entrance at every security checkpoint in the complex this way.
That’s alarming on the face of it but even more alarming is Sheriff Clarke’s handling of the situation afterward. Instead of bringing the results of his integrity check to the County Executive or the County Board, the sheriff issues a press release to the media. And according to the report in this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the sheriff has either ignored or rebuffed attempts for a meeting from County Executive Chris Abele’s office. And of course the sheriff hasn’t brought his concerns to the Facilities Management Division nor the Milwaukee County Dept of Administrative Services who oversee the security provisions at the courthouse.
Instead the sheriff has decided to station a deputy at each entrance to be paid for with overtime funds. They will remain there until “he is convinced weapons cannot get through.”
The sheriff was correct in auditing security at the courthouse and he has legitimate concerns:
“The security check has become an exercise in going through the motions,” Clarke said in the release. He blamed “complacency and a lack of a sense of urgency,” as well as “inadequate supervision by Facilities Management.”
But using a press release without talking to the county executive or other county officials responsible for courthouse security is just other example of the sheriff’s propensity for grandstanding. He obviously isn’t actually concerned about safety at the courthouse or this would have been handled far more effectively (and professionally).
And the county executive has every right to be angry about how this has been handled.
Abele said all he knows about the incident is what was detailed in Clarke’s news release and that he met with Facilities Management officials soon after.
“I said I want to know everything we can about this, what can we do to make it better,” Abele said, adding that he still wants to meet with Clarke.
Of course County Executive Abele also has a penchant for running to the press or Madison to resolve personal issues from in and around county government so this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
But it’s time that ALL of our elected county officials start to do their jobs and do them effectively and professionally…and we do have a security issue that shouldn’t remain unaddressed for another moment.