Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is a hot mess. If he performed in female drag rather than country-western, he’d be known as the Miss Mess of Milwaukee politics.
Clarke’s public tirades have become another kind of drag. In recent months, he’s suggested that Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele suffers from penis envy and uses heroin. He’s urged Milwaukee County citizens to become armed vigilantes and help his deputies enforce the law.
He tried arresting House of Correction superintendent Michael Hafemann for not following his orders, even though Hafemann had broken no law and doesn’t even report to Clarke.
Yes, Clarke’s giving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford a run for his money.
We have right-wing hate radio frauds Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling to thank for enabling the narcissistic Clarke’s madness by rewarding it with airtime. Clarke’s a favored guest on Sykes’ daily Scott Walker infomercial. Clarke is a living Sykes’ wet dream in color — an African-American, closeted Republican in a 10-galloon hat who was named sheriff of the year by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. That’s a group that says sheriffs have a constitutional duty to protect citizens from the federal government.
Clarke’s latest bout of madness appears to have manifest in a sting operation targeting gay men in Milwaukee parks. The Milwaukee Ddistrict Aattorney’s office is currently reviewing seven cases of men who’ve been arrested for soliciting sex from plainclothes deputies in the parks.
We strongly disapprove of people using public facilities to engage in sexual activities, especially since we’ve fought so hard to achieve the right to integrate those activities respectfully into our lives. Once upon a time, gay men had reasons for seeking out anonymous public sex. They were forced to live in the shadows out of fear of discovery.
But today two men can get a room together in a respectable hotel. They can go home together without fear of being seen by neighbors and generating gossip that could ruin their careers. One-third of American gays live in jurisdictions where they can get legally hitched.
We fear this current rash of arrests is the result of entrapment, not people being caught having sex in public. It’s an age-old form of anti-gay harassment, a holdover from the pre-Stonewall Era: Plainclothes officers pretend to be interested in gay men cruising around parks and then arrest them for taking the bait. Or not even taking the bait. After all, it’s the officer’s word against the gay’s, and the officer might have a quota to fill.
We’ve requested information from the Sheriff’s office to help determine what’s going on in the parks. We’ll report the facts surrounding these incidents as they emerge, and we’ll take whatever steps are necessary if Clarke’s office refuses to provide the information we’ve requested.
If it turns out that the sheriff, who’s been wailing that funding cuts to his office have compromised public safety, is throwing taxpayer dollars into a lurid program to sexually ensnare gay men, then he’ll be exposed for indecency.