Milwaukee County Sheriff candidate Steven Duckhorn
Milwaukee Police Officer Steven Duckhorn thinks there should be a new sheriff in town. Running as a Republican to incumbent Sheriff David Clarke, a conservative-leaning Democrat, Duckhorn has not attracted the attention of the AM talkers who regularly praise Clarke as the answer to many of Milwaukee’s problems. But Third Coast Digest is giving him his say and allowing you to decide if his ideas for the sheriff’s office are what we need in our community.
Q: What are your plans for the county’s correctional facilities, and how will you use rehabilitative programming like boot camp programs, religious programming and worker training classes?
“My personal belief is that Clarke should have evaluated the health of his own department before taking on additional responsibilities. However, I’d be reckless to simply hand these organizations back to their original state now that they fall under the Sheriff’s responsibilities.
“I will implement a 6-month freeze on any policy or procedure change within the County Correctional Facility Central and South until I run a detailed audit of their daily operations. I understand the need to cut costs and improve methods. However, many employees of both agencies have expressed that Clarke’s cuts to their budget and staffing have resulted in dangerous conditions where employees are overworked with a dangerous ratio of (too few) guards to (too many) prisoners. That deserves a look. Clarke can cut cost to gain favor as a politician, but not at the expense of law enforcement officers.
“I believe rehabilitation is through truth in sentencing, in that inmates serve the sentence handed to them by the courts, but do so in a facility that incorporates education that will be critical to them serving productive lawful lives upon release. Religious programming is tricky, since the Sheriff’s department cannot and will not impose religion on an inmate or employee. However, being a man of personal faith in God, I am open to developing partnerships with various religious organizations to provide spiritual outlets and mentoring for inmates willingly seeking such programs.”
Q: What is the role of the county sheriff in a major metropolitan area that has numerous other law enforcement agencies, and how will the Sheriff’s Department interact with the MPD and suburban police departments?
Duckhorn explains that Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputies are the guards standing along the city walls in the Roman Empire. “The guards on those walls do not interfere or burden themselves with the everyday activities within the city. Those guards are specially trained to stay on that wall and guard the city from intruders on the horizon. The County Sheriff will support local law enforcement agencies such as Greenfield, Hales Corners, Milwaukee, Whitefish Bay, etc. But those agencies ultimately determine what is best for their community. Clarke has inserted his own agenda into each department and then appeared in every community parade taking credit for the safety of these communities when in fact, their own departments deserve the respect and gratitude for jobs well done.
“The key to my administration will be partnerships with local law enforcement to obtain critical information and data that will assist Sheriff deputies in fighting crime 0n the borders of Milwaukee County. For example, there has been a rise in drugs, guns, and sex trafficking of underage prostitutes coming from South using I-94. A partnership with the Kenosha, Racine, South Milwaukee, and St. Francis police allows the Milwaukee County Sheriff’ to develop an almost impenetrable wall against these activities by sharing information and resources and then implementing a law enforcement strategy for Southern Milwaukee County.
“David Clarke has isolated every department around him which is why the Milwaukee County Sheriff has no clear strategy for fighting crime and has not hired a new deputy since 2003. I welcome partnerships with neighboring agencies. You can’t fight crime from atop a white horse in a parade. It almost does take a village to fight crime.”
Q: What is your management philosophy in regards to deputies and civilian employees?
“Deputies will be treated with respect and dignity in an environment free of sexual harassment, vulgarity, unconstitutional discipline, contract violating work hours and conditions and an arrogance that places lives in danger. I doubt my opponent can make the same statement. In return deputies will be expected to perform duties with the utmost professionalism, promptness, and respect towards the community. Discipline will be constructed so that minor infractions are handled at a local supervisory level trusting the judgement of the leadership in place. More serious infractions will be reviewed by myself and other high ranking officials within the Milwaukee County Sheriff’ so as there is not a rush to judgement. The current Sheriff is mandating that his internal affairs department initiate 5 new investigations against deputies a week, including discipline for illegible signatures. This is useless and undermines the ultimate vision of the Milwaukee County Sheriff.
“Civilian employees are a sensitive issue as many of them, including Correction Officers, do not go through the same training and background checks as deputies, which can encourage incidents of fraternization with inmates and bad judgment. By the time deputies graduate from the academy, they have been given a certain degree of separation psychologically from prisoners. Whereas civilians are not subject to the same training and the danger is that there may be a familiarity or empathy towards inmates that is not appropriate. I am not suggesting civilians share an affinity with prisoners or would help them escape, but as a law enforcement officer of 17 years, I can tell you that it is your training as a police officer that is the reminder of what your role is and the boundaries surrounding that role. I welcome civilian employees but will use great judgement as to where they are implemented.”
Q: What cost saving measures would you implement during your term to reduce the tax burden of the department, and what areas of the department need more funding and why?
“There is a difference between cutting cost to be responsible to the taxpayer and cutting costs at the expense of officer safety to gain favor as a politician. The fact that Clarke has been Sheriff for eight years despite a 97% no confidence from the law enforcement community gives you an idea who he serves as Sheriff. Overtime would be greatly guarded in my administration, but I will not cut costs to critical services.
“At this time, due to Clarke’s budget cuts, the Sheriff’s Department has no gang intelligence unit, no welfare fraud investigative unit, only one part-time drug dog at General Mitchell Field despite a a record number of travelers in 2009 and no gun initiative. All these are services existed before the office of the Sheriff was politicized. These areas need more funding. However, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department is currently entering negotiations to take patrol responsibilities of Miller Park on game days from the Milwaukee Police Department in 2011. This is a prime example of creating an additional expense that is not needed when the Sheriff’s department is missing core programs already due to budget cuts.”
Q: What makes you the most qualified person to be Milwaukee County Sheriff?
“Leadership is not about dictating. It is about motivating the best out of your personnel. As a police officer for 17 years, I have received 19 letters of commendation from politicians, community employees, and citizens of Milwaukee County. I have received merits of commendation from all three police chiefs I have served under showing that my level of service and professionalism has remained consistent. As a police officer, I have met both Presidents Bush and Clinton, receiving a personal greeting and helped secure the aiport as Air Force One landed with President Obama. I know how to talk to the community and to those in the highest office. I have served in leadership in the world of business and retail and in the religious community for over 25 years. I have studied the Milwaukee County Sheriff for over five years and am prepared to lead them to the premiere level that has been their signature in years past.
“In the eight years that Clarke has been Milwaukee County Sheriff, he has used his office to pad his resume with training at the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department, and many premiere organizations, often a the expense of the taxpayer. Yet all that training resulted in a 97% no confidence vote by law enforcement, the lowest number of deputies employed in history, more lawsuits and violations of Sheriff regulations than in history, and more appearances in community parades by Clarke than all of the past Sheriffs, Milwaukee Police Chiefs, and Milwaukee mayors combined.
“Clarke will tell you he has the experience. What he has is the authority. Experience is not about making yourself seen and heard. It is about leading others to fulfill their best and I will do that as Milwaukee County Sheriff.”