Due to a recent Milwaukee District Attorney-ordered inquest, we now know that prosecutors believe Sheriff David Clarke’s guards last year intentionally shut off the water to a man’s jail cell and then allowed that man to die a slow and painful death from dehydration.

There is clearly something wrong when guards decide that such an action is OK. The perpetrators of this heinous crime seem to have believed they could get away with it, and that too is troubling.

What we recently learned about the man’s death is not new — and yet we’ve heard nothing from Clarke.

For all we know, these guards are still working in Clarke’s jail.

It should not take something as extraordinary as an inquest for the sheriff to discipline his staff when their actions lead to any preventable deaths.

Most troubling is that Clarke’s lack of action and failure to condemn the behavior of his guards seems to indicate that he feels they did nothing wrong.

We see this over and over.

When Sheriff Clarke screws up and puts the county at risk of having to pay out millions of dollars to settle claims for his failures, he attempts to divert attention away from his own actions.

Enough is enough.

Clarke oversees the jail and he needs to take responsibility for what happens there.

Prosecutors should look at who authorized or encouraged guards to operate the county jail like a medieval dungeon, and follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if it leads directly to Sheriff Clarke.

Peggy A. West represents the 12th District on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and serves as first vice chair.

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