Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

America Discovers Sheriff Clarke

Clarke appears on Piers Morgan with Tom Barrett and gets beat up by both Morgan and the mayor.

By - Jan 30th, 2013 11:17 am

Sheriff David Clarke and Mayor Tom Barrett debated the issue of guns and gun control on Piers Morgan’s CNN show last night, but the most fascinating moments involved the interchanges between Clarke and Morgan, who makes no pretense of objectivity and made clear his distaste for Clarke’s recent radio ad suggesting citizens in Milwaukee arm themselves.

Morgan blasted Clarke for what he called a “racy, Hollywood-style radio ad” and charged that Clarke was trying to create “a return to the Wild West” days in America.

Clarke said he objected to Morgan’s insinuation that the sheriff was using a “Hollywood voice” in the ads and said “this is my normal voice.”

Barrett blasted Clarke as “irresponsible” for using his public office to suggest that calling 911 won’t help you. Barrett also said people should realize that the sheriff has nothing to do with 911 calls, because they are handled by the Milwaukee Police Department and suburban police departments.

Clarke responded by calling the sheriff’s department the top law enforcement agency in Milwaukee County. “We are a full-fledged law enforcement agency. We respond to anything,” Clarke contended.

On Barrett’s next chance up to bat, he noted that Clarke said he can respond to any calls, but “doesn’t tell you” that he doesn’t in fact respond to 911 calls.

Clarke’s best moments were two. He noted that Barrett came pretty close to getting killed when he was attacked at State Fair Park and a gun could have helped him in that situation. (Barrett never responded directly to this.) He also gave a couple examples of cases of “exigent circumstances” where an incident happened so quickly that police could not respond in time, suggesting these victims would have been helped if they had a gun.

But he was playing defense for most of the segment, with both Barrett and Morgan going after the sheriff. Morgan asked Clarke how many people in Milwaukee had defended themselves at home with a gun, and Clarke responded, “I don’t have those statistics.” Morgan asked for a ball-park figure, and when Clarke said “I don’t think we need to go there,” Morgan snapped, “You haven’t got a clue.”

Barrett noted that 40 percent of guns are sold by private, unregulated gun sellers and asked if Clarke would support controls over this, and background checks to make sure guns don’t go to people with a criminal record, a charge of domestic violence, or a history of mental illness. Clarke wouldn’t answer.

Morgan then took up the theme, demanding to know if Clarke would support background checks. Clarke responded but would not answer the question, and Morgan, after blasting the sheriff for refusing to answer his question, ended the interview.

The entire episode had a slightly surreal air, with Morgan, a British emigre with a polished accent, refereeing a discussion between two Milwaukee officials discussing intricacies of our local law enforcement structure that may have been of limited interest to a national audience.

Adding to the strangeness was that Sheriff, as Barrett pointed out, has nothing to do with 911 calls and does little to combat violent crime in homes or neighborhoods. As I’ve previously reported,  the most recent two years of statistics compiled by the state Office of Justice Assistance show that Clarke and his sheriff’s department handled just 57 violent and property crimes, or less than one-fifth of one percent of all the incidents. The Milwaukee Police handled 75 percent of the incidents and the rest were handled by suburban police.

As Barrett noted, the sheriff’s officers don’t respond to 911 calls but staff the Milwaukee County Jail and County Correctional Facility South (formerly House of Correction), handle the courthouse’s system of bailiffs, and patrol the freeways. But as my story noted, there is considerable evidence that the Sheriff’s department has too big a budget to handle these functions. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has offered statistics showing that Milwaukee County has 30 percent more law enforcement employees than comparable counties.

Indeed, Clarke’s real debate isn’t with Barrett but with Abele, who has reduced Clarke’s budget. As the Sheriff noted, his department has lost 42 officer due to budget cuts. Clarke’s radio ad, whatever its message about guns, is the latest of his many attempts to scare the citizenry into concluding that we are unsafe because his budget was cut. Clarke versus Barrett is really a sideshow: the sheriff is really aiming his fire at Abele.

Clarke’s scary ad, by the way, wouldn’t have as much resonance but for a “Watchdog” story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which purported to prove response time to crimes had badly declined under Flynn. But the increase in response time was minuscule and mainly showed that Chief Ed Flynn’s strategy of prioritizing the most serious crimes was working. Perhaps that’s why citizen complaints about the department and about response time have declined under Flynn.

A recent column by Alex Runner, a Sherman Park resident and former aide to Common Council President Willie Hines, offers an interesting take on his positive experience dealing with the police response to 911 calls. He also chastises Clarke for saying the issue of crime is  “no longer a spectator sport – I need you in the game.”

“Come again?” Runner asks. “Spectator sport? Game? Public safety is not a game, Sheriff.”

As to the issue of whether furloughs for Milwaukee Police officers will have any impact on response time to 911 calls, which Clarke claims to be the case, here’s what the folks who actually run the Milwaukee Police Department say:

“We have 1,403 sworn police officers who will be taking furlough days in 2013 and the total number of days taken will be 4,209,” says Detective Inspector William Jessup. “The furlough days are chosen or assigned to our officers based on the staffing needs of their respective work locations and are scheduled far in advance.  Consequently, furlough days do not impact our crime reduction efforts.”

Adds Chief Flynn: “What this means, in a nutshell, is that since people will have to take unpaid days off, fewer officers will be permitted to use their paid leave, so the normal street strength will be maintained. Furloughs will have NO impact on the number of officers actually working first-responder duties on the street.”

Short Takes

-While Clarke declined to respond to whether he would support background checks to stop bad guys from getting guns, he used to support some gun control measures. Back in 2003 he joined E. Michael McCann, then the Milwaukee County DA, and other law enforcement officials to oppose repealing the ban on concealed carry of guns. Years later, Clarke changed his position.

-Lost amid all this controversy was a new proposal to reduce the power of the Milwaukee Police & Fire Commission and increase the power of the Common Council when it comes to hiring the police chief. This would change a state law on the books since 1885.

-Alex Runner was also in the news recently for championing the raising of chickens in an urban setting. His is among 14 households in the city that have begun raising chickens since the city okayed this.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

16 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: America Discovers Sheriff Clarke”

  1. Joe says:

    Pierce Morgan is hardly the person you want to cite when combating Clarke’s asinine ad. The average high school paper’s editorial is more thoughtfully crafted and has much more integrity.

    For the record I’m pro-concealed carry but completely aghast at what Clarke has proposed (not that the source surprised me). We do not need hot heads in a position of authority egging on other hot heads. He is more a politician than a sheriff and has resorted to the worst of the Tea Party scare tactics.

  2. Wis. Conservative Digest says:

    “Scarey ad,” what a laugh. You Irish are always entertaining me. Telling people that they should defend themselves when attacked. David should expand on this by talking about locked doors and other ways to also make sure that this spreading crime wave of home invasions like I almost had, but dog kept out two days ago. Violent juvenile, fought with lady cop when apprehended, ddi ransack garage and car, stealing bike and filet knife plus money.
    As long as these leftist judges and leftist DA wants to let everyone out of jail we will have to deal with this. Home invasions are netting more money, drugs etc.
    Thank God for concealed carry, that has reduced killings in this country by half and more robberies. More guns equals less crime.
    How come 70% of the Journal readers, mostly a liberal crew agrees with David???
    People like Barrett, Mayor of the 8th poorest city in the country, losing population daily, schools that do not work and chasing out business to Waukesha need straw men to knock over cause they can’t solve problems. He loves choo-choo trains though. I am sure that if you are armed you won’t be able to ride it.
    Every year we have over 1 million armed guys take to the field, for various hunting and shooting sports. They know how to handle guns. Maybe the best thing for the “Know nothings” is to put signs in their yards: “No Fear, No guns here”.
    People that do not want to handle guns should not, but the best thing that we could do for society is to have firearms training in our schools at the age of 12.
    As for Piers Morgan, what a pompous ass with his nose in the air. Notice us uneducated slobs, took our guns, most of us learned to shoot on the farm, and bailed their asses out of two wars. Note that the British did not mind that we used guns to defend them those years. Course, we did use our muskets to toss them out of this country, I think that he is still mad about that.
    You put all of those pompous fools in one big island and they have no sense. They should spend some time in some bars in Crandon or Kaycee, Wyoming to straighten out their minds.
    Thanks Bruce, this is the most fun I have had since I was shooting pigs down in Texas.
    Anyone wanting to help distribute the Conservative Digest of Commonsense, send me $25 and I will send you 25. Check facebook: Wisconsin Conservative Digest.

  3. Steve says:

    Hey, WCD, if I send you $50, will you cease your inane commentary?

  4. wis conservative Digest says:

    I will take the $50 and just tell you not to read it. It is interesting to note that already half a dozen people have shown Barrett to be a liar on his point about 40% of guns being sold without going through a check. All the gun show guys all have ffl’s now. The only ones not going through a check are those that are transfers from me to my sons, all special forces in service and the ones between criminals who will hardly go through a check.
    Bruce, thank you for having this blog, the most fun people in earth to match wits with it the witless.

  5. Juli Kaufmann says:

    I don’t think Urban Milwaukee should censor, but I also don’t think you should provide a forum for racist insults and personal attacks made against authors or other comment posters. I wonder if there is a reasonable way to draw boundaries. If there is, I would encourage you to consider it. I know I can ignore comments, especially those that have become predictable by certain commentators, but I also think there should be a line drawn at some point. Where that line is drawn is obviously a difficult call. I appreciate informed debate and difference of opinion. I also feel free to draw my own conclusions about people that post things I find offensive or wrong, but I think it should stop short of name-calling or worse about a persons character or inherent racial traits. Maybe you could author a post on this topic and let your readers debate whether a policy is possible.

  6. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Oh Pooh, eastsider I presume.

  7. Keith Prochnow says:

    Steve, Juli, nobody reads WCD’s drivel, you should just skip it, too. It’s easy.

    As to Sheriff Clarke: Fire Clarke! There’s an election coming up, though not soon enough, regrettably.

  8. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Just for your information I have more readers monthly than the Journal does daily, on line and paper edition. But I love to point out to the Liberals how badly that they have run Milwaukee, MPS and the other assorted agencies in the area. 57% unemployment for the kids, 30% of the tenth graders can read while the educrats pull down enormous salaries and bennies plus a Mayor that has never seen a problem that he could not solve. All new businesses and many older one build in flourishing Waukesha count, Washington or Ozaukee. Milwaukee is left with a liberal base that accomplishes nothing.

  9. Laurie Szpot says:

    Most of Clarke’s points were taken directly out of the NRA’s playbook. Was he paid for producing that ad?

  10. blurondo says:

    I learned today that this drivel was paid for by the tax payers. Obviously, the County Exec has a lot more cutting of the sheriff’s budget to do.

  11. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I can see right through you bunch of racists. If that was a white, Liberal you would be applauding him but you hate masculine, black males.

  12. HiPoLoAch says:

    WCD – Pierce? Try “Piers.”
    “But I love to point out to the Liberals how badly that they have run Milwaukee …”
    “That” is unnecessary and ungrammatical.
    Use an editor at the WCD … much?

  13. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Al us rednicks is backing Dave Clark, we luv his band.

  14. Jesse H. says:

    I’ll 2nd the idea of removing the trashy comments or give a workaround to your readers so they can block who they choose.

    For me it’s not a matter of disagreeing with Wiscondig, he’s just all over the place in a non-sensical way, I’d rather not wade through the dregs of the internet to read the mostly interesting articles & comments on

  15. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Just love to hear Leftists whine. Just out, last year only 6% of the people in chicago involved with gun crimes went to jail. “We have to love each other”.

  16. wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    I guess Clarke was wrong after all. Homeland security sez to arm yourself against these shooters with a scissors or lacking a sharp scissors straighten out some paper clips.

    Why didn’t Clarke think of that???? He obvioulsy thinks he’s dirty Harry or maybe “Big Bird”?

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