County Jail Staff Wore White Supremacist Symbols
Staff wearing "Punisher" symbol and Spartan helmet, both used by far-right groups.
During a tour of the Milwaukee County Jail in January, Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy noticed that one of the staff members was wearing a mask with the symbol for the Marvel comic book character The Punisher.
This symbol, a white skull with four long teeth, Clancy told Urban Milwaukee, is associated with far-right and white supremacist groups and ideology. The symbol has been documented in news media as being worn by right-wing rioters at the U.S. Capitol in January
Dave Lieber, a columnist with the Dallas Morning News, reported in February that the logo has become popular among police, militias, hate groups and followers of the Qanon conspiracy theory.
In 2011, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that in 2005 and 2007 a Captain in the Milwaukee Police Department investigated and wrote a report on a “gang” of “rogue officers” described as “brutal and abusive” who were called “The Punishers” and sported that emblem within the department It was later revealed that two of the police officers involved in the brutal assault of Frank Jude had Punisher symbols — one having a tattoo, the other on his truck.
Clancy’s spotting of the symbol at the jail came to light during an exchange with Sheriff Earnell Lucas Chief of Staff Ted Chisholm at a recent meeting of the Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee. Clancy noted that he spotted the symbols and alerted the Sheriff’s Office, and Chisholm responded saying that they have communicated to the entire staff that there are symbols with white supremacist connotations that cannot be worn or displayed in the jail or any county facility.
He said a case has been forwarded to the Internal Affairs Division of the Sheriff’s Office regarding the Punisher skull. But there was a second staff member wearing a mask that Clancy said had connections to racist ideology.
This person was wearing a mask with a Spartan helmet, which has been adopted as a a symbol by some white supremacist groups. The mask was red, white and blue and had a Thin Blue Line symbol — a popular symbol for law enforcement. Chisholm said this person had no idea the Spartan helmet has hate group connotations and that it was purchased at a store in Southridge Mall in Greendale called Frontline Defender, which advertises Military and First Responder apparel and collectibles. This case was not forwarded to Internal Affairs, Chisholm said.
Clancy told Urban Milwaukee he wasn’t satisfied with the handling of the Spartan symbol mask, and said even if you can buy it at Southridge Mall, “We need to hold our corrections staff especially to a higher standard than others.”
Chisholm agreed, and said the symbol was inappropriate to wear in the jail regardless of the intent of the staff member. This second symbol, the Spartan helmet, was discovered by the Sheriff’s Office after Clancy flagged the Punisher Symbol for them and they investigated.
Clancy told Urban Milwaukee he saw the symbols during a tour that he had scheduled in 2020, but that the Sheriff’s Office kept delaying action on this. He said he has toured many county facilities as a supervisor, including the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center, and the House of Correction where he was able to interact with inmates in the housing unit. The Sheriff’s Office, however, wouldn’t let him into the County Jail’s housing unit or to interact with inmates.
During the committee meeting on April 8th, Chisholm said “there is a difference between personnel coming into the facility for the purposes of a statutorily mandated inspection…and conducting a tour of the facility for individuals who do not work for the Sheriff’s Office.”
There have been four deaths in the jail in the past year and a reported sexual assault, and Clancy said as an elected representative in the county he wants to inspect the conditions in the facility, saying, “This is not what I expect from county government.”