Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Sup. Clancy, Sheriff Ball Trade Charges

Conflict erupts before board's jail inquiry even begins.

By - Aug 23rd, 2023 07:24 pm
Supervisor Ryan Clancy and Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball.

Supervisor Ryan Clancy and Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball has apparently had enough of Sup. Ryan Clancy.

Clancy has for years made critical statements about the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and its officials. Ball has never before responded with criticism of Clancy. But yesterday that changed, with Ball directly attacking Clancy after he criticized information that her office provided the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

The background to this dispute was a string of deaths at the county jail since June 2022, all of them reported as suicides or due to natural causes. In May, the board passed legislation that formally requested reports and policy documents from the MCSO to provide a base of information from which to legislate. The resulting document, as Urban Milwaukee reported yesterday, described the county jail as badly understaffed and overpopulated.

Clancy, who is chair of the board’s Judiciary, Law Enforcement and General Services Committee, released a statement shortly after the information release saying he thought it did not “meet the requirements” of the board’s request. “It is, predictably and disappointingly, an empty grab for more money, and a stark refusal to engage with policies surrounding the many in-custody deaths that continue to happen.”

In response, Ball released a statement saying the MCSO had “worked at great length” with the county’s attorneys to compile a report that satisfies the board’s request. “It is abundantly clear that Supervisor Clancy does not intend to engage with this report in good faith,” Ball said. “Instead of debating with a supervisor who feels that the tireless work of our dedicated Law Enforcement and Correctional personnel, has no ‘dignity or value,’ we will continue working with our partners across our community to ensure safety in the jail and promote peace and security in our neighborhoods.”

Ball’s statement was a reference to the controversy that recently erupted after Clancy made a remark that police work has “no dignity or value.”

“Time and time again, year after year, Supervisor Clancy has proudly proclaimed his contempt for the vital work of law enforcement, even while serving as the chair of the Judiciary, Law Enforcement and General Services Committee,” Ball said. “It is disturbing that a government leader entrusted with this role is using it to attack the profession that keeps our community safe.”

Clancy characterized the report as “in direct opposition to the resolution’s request.” The supervisor said it omitted “essential budget details” that will be provided in a follow-up report next year. The report did provide a detailed breakdown of where money was allocated within the department in 2023, but said “a streamlined, easy-to-understand explanation of not only the numbers but the mission and goals underlying the fund allocation decisions,” would not come until 2024. All signs point to this year being Clancy’s last budget cycle as a supervisor. However, he has declined to confirm whether or not he will run again.

The supervisor also charged that the sheriff did not offer any “actionable solutions” and instead offered “excuses and generic descriptions of Jail Officer courses.”

The MCSO maintains that staffing and jail population remain the most critical challenges the department faces. MCSO officials have repeatedly stated they think that hourly pay for corrections officers must be increased to improve staffing. Clancy has regularly opposed funding for the MCSO and drafts budget amendments each year seeking to reduce the agency’s budget, finding little support on the board. His exchange of charges with the sheriff may not help Clancy win any converts to his cause.

Read Clancy’s full statement and Ball’s full statement on Urban Milwaukee.

Update: A previous version of this story said former sheriff Earnell Lucas never publicly criticized Clancy. That is not true, Lucas criticized Clancy in the press after the supervisor filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office over his arrest at a police brutality protest.

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