Milwaukee is under threat by both ISIS and the Black Lives Matter movement, in the mind of Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.
On Tuesday night, the county sheriff likened the grassroots social movement to the so-called Islamic State on his Twitter account, saying they both seek to bring down “our legal constituted republic.”
For most elected civil servants, this bold assertion would be a regrettable instance of social media hyperbole, but for the outspoken Clarke, it’s par for the course.
Earlier that day, the sheriff earnestly claimed there was “no police brutality in America” during an appearance on Fox & Friends.
“We ended that back in the ’60s,” he added straight-faced before accusing President Obama of “playing the race game” and calling him “a nightmare.”The 37-year veteran of law enforcement—who is currently serving his fourth full term as Milwaukee County Sheriff—calls himself “The People’s Sheriff” (also the name of his weekly podcast on The Blaze, the website founded by Glenn Beck). He’s known for frequently wearing a cowboy hat, occasionally while perched atop a horse during public appearances. He’s a strategically registered Democrat who backs the Tea Party and counts John Wayne and Ronald Reagan among his heroes.
“I don’t know if his intent is to find a permanent place for himself on Fox News or the like,” says Angela Walker, who ran against Clarke in the 2014 general election. “I do know that his statements and posturing are harmful and insulting to the people of Milwaukee County, and that as a resident here, I am embarrassed.”
Clarke’s service included running public service announcements after a round of deputy layoffs in 2013 that told citizens calling 911 was “no longer your best option” and urged them to take protection into their own hands.
“You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back,” he said. Mayor Tom Barrett was quick to tell Clarke and Piers Morgan both he and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn disagreed with Clarke’s sentiments in the PSA, while also reminding Clarke the sheriff’s jurisdiction was not over the city’s homes, but rather, focused primarily on Milwaukee County’s freeways, airports, and courts.
Beyond his various disputes with Mayor Barrett, constant sparring with Chief Flynn has made metro Milwaukee’s law enforcement a house divided. He’s prone to speaking out against President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder, who—according to Daniel Bice of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel—asked Clarke “what’s up with the white [cowboy] hat?” when they met.Clarke has since blocked Bice from viewing his curiously frequent “Black LIES Matter” typos and partisan retweets on Twitter. In fact, the renegade sheriff could have the fastest block button in the wild wild Midwest, as a handful of Milwaukee journalists have been disallowed access to Clarke’s account, including Dan Shafer of Milwaukee Magazine.“I don’t write about criminal justice, I don’t write about law enforcement, and I don’t recall writing anything about him publicly,” Shafer said. “It’s strange that he’d block a citizen in his district that doesn’t write about him who just has a media job.”With each irresponsible keystroke and unfounded cable news claim, a civil servant elected to help protect his populace seems to be on the warpath. Everyone from mid-market journalists to Caitlyn Jenner, his city’s mayor, and all the way up to the office of the president of the United States seems to be standing in Sheriff Clarke’s way. Exactly where the warpath leads is unknown. Some have speculated a run for political office. Perhaps he’s grown accustomed to the way his cowboy hat looks on cable television.
No matter where he’s headed, Milwaukee is in for a bumpy ride.