Donald Trump met with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke at Trump Tower Monday afternoon, presumably to discuss tapping Clarke for a position in his administration. Insiders say the bizarre head of Milwaukee County law enforcement is under consideration to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Like Trump, Clarke is a lightning rod of the radical right who is known nationally for his history of making shocking statements and engaging in outrageous behavior.
Although Clarke runs as a Democrat, his right-wing Republican beliefs are known nationwide. He addressed the Republican National Convention over the summer with a fiery conservative speech that drew a standing ovation. Clarke is a frequent guest on Fox News and a well-known personality on right-wing talk radio. He has his own program on The Blaze network that’s called The People’s Sheriff.
In October, when it seemed as if Trump would lose his race against Hillary Clinton, Clarke urged his Twitter followers to take up their “pitchforks and torches” against her in case she won.
Clarke, who is African American, frequently blasts Black Lives Matter as a “vile” and “slimy” racist group. He condemns what he calls the “ghetto” culture of African-American neighborhoods in the inner city.
Clarke sets himself apart from other urbanites — both black and white — by degrading blacks and often appearing in public wearing cowboy boots and a 10-gallon cowboy hat. The costume matches his John Wayne-style tough talk, including the boast that he’d increase Gitmo’s population to 1 million as Secretary of Homeland Security.
Clarke provides cover for the racist right wing of the Republican Party, wrote Congresswoman Gwen Moore in an op-ed.
“It’s clear that Fox News and Sheriff Clarke have developed a symbiotic relationship,” Moore wrote. “He needs the cable news network for its national platform; Fox needs a black sheriff to give voice to the dog-whistle narratives its anchors dare not vocalize themselves.”
Also like Trump, Clarke is well known for his temper tantrums and unfiltered remarks. Using a school-boy insult later borrowed by Trump, Clarke once questioned the size of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s genitalia.
Clarke was widely criticized for cutting security for President Obama when he visited Milwaukee. After one of his budget requests was denied, Clarke asked Milwaukee County citizens to take up arms and essentially become vigilantes to help his understaffed squad of deputies enforce the law. At the same time, his deputies were conducting sting operations to entrap gay men on sexual charges in public parks.
Clarke has a penchant for filing frivolous right-wing lawsuits that amuse his white, suburban Republican base but have cost county taxpayers over $400,000.
But there have also been numerous lawsuits filed against him. The latest prospective suit comes from Shadé Swayzer, the mother of a newborn who died in Milwaukee County Jail last July.
Swayzer’s lawyer wrote that she told a corrections officer she was going into labor around midnight, but that the officer laughed and ignored her, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office contends that Swayzer never told jail staff she was going into labor. The company responsible for medical care at the jail has said Swayzer’s child was stillborn.
But Swayzer insists her child was “born alive, cried profusely and was breastfed.”
The infant was one of four people who’ve died in a Milwaukee County jail cell since April — and one of 12 who’ve died there since he took office. In September, a man died of dehydration in the jail after guards ignored his pleas for water.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde has called for Clarke’s resignation over the deaths.
“The simple fact that four deaths have occurred in a six month period under his watch demonstrates that Sheriff David Clarke is unfit to manage the Milwaukee County Jail,” Omokunde said. “Media reports and the statements of witnesses indicate that at least three of the deaths appear to have occurred as a result of actions or inaction by Sheriff Clarke’s corrections officers. Yet not a single officer has been disciplined, and Sheriff Clarke remains silent. This is totally unacceptable.
“Accountability starts at the top. Sheriff Clarke has failed to establish a culture of professionalism, has failed to call for independent investigations when warranted, and he has abdicated his responsibility to hold his officers accountable for their actions or lack of action. He should resign immediately.”
For all of these reasons,, Clarke will face a contentious battle for confirmation by the Senate, if Clarke should nominate him for a cabinet-level position.
“David Clarke is extremist, bombastic and incompetent at his job,” said Scot Ross, executive director of the progressive group One Wisconsin Now.
“David Clarke with his speeches filled with bombast, childish insults and advocacy for Tea Party extremism aren’t making anyone safer,” Ross continued. “His actions and his rhetoric are Exhibit A of the dangerous extremism being abided by the leaders of today’s Republican Party.”