Sheriff Clarke fires back over security duty during presidential visit

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke responded Thursday to attacks against him by city and county politicians, who said Wednesday he did not provide enough protection during President Obama's trip to Milwaukee to visit Master Lock.

The heads of Milwaukee's Common Council and County Board blasted Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Wednesday for not providing enough security for Obama, and Sheriff Clarke is pointing the finger back at them.

Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines said Sheriff Clarke's decision to assign sheriff's deputies to only partial security for President Obama was appalling and embarrassing. "It's irresponsible, it's unprecedented, it's unheard of and it's just plain not right. They tell you they're on a cut back as it pertains to protecting the President of the United States," Hines said.

Sheriff Clarke issued a statement Thursday that reads, in part: "I wish Hines would be as animated when it comes to solving the real issues facing the City of Milwaukee and its residents. Milwaukee has an almost 30 percent black unemployment rate, a K-12 public school system that has among the worst fourth and eighth grade reading scores in the nation, and a widening achievement gap between black students and their counterparts. The city's high infant mortality rate is deplorable, and Milwaukee has the fourth highest poverty rate of US cities its size. It makes me wonder about Ald. Hines' ability to understand the profound nature of these pathologies."

Sheriff Clarke said drawing attention to what he calls the "elimination of dignitary protection funding from the sheriff's 2012 budget by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele" is done when "politicians can't solve real problems."

Sheriff Clarke said the protection of the President of the United States is the responsibility of the Secret Service, and local law enforcement provides a supporting role.

Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Eyon Biddle said he was disgusted with Sheriff Clarke saying "The budget fight is over. The fight you should be having is with the Governor."

Sheriff Clarke fired back, saying budget limitation forced the department to scale back its involvement. Clarke said the sheriff's office used to set aside money to protect presidents in years past, but the County Board and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele eliminated that funding. Sheriff Clarke also said the County Board of Supervisors approved these cuts against his advice, and that Abele's budget specified that dignitary protection is not a core service.

In his statement, Sheriff Clarke called out County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, Biddle and County Supervisor John Weishan, saying they had a chance to restore dignitary protection funding, but "in their infinite idiocy, they chose to approve Abele's elimination of this funding."

Sheriff Clarke brings up in his statement the fact that this is an election year, and he anticipates many more presidential candidate visits, and says his budget states protection of these individuals "is not a core service," and "can be provided by municipalities.

Sheriff Clarke ends his statement saying "this is their budget, and I'm going to make them own it."

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway said he was disappointed in the way Sheriff Clarke handled the President's visit, saying he played heavy politics and wished in the future there would be more security for protecting presidents.

Holloway issued a letter to Sheriff Clarke Thursday, saying in part: "It is immature and childish for you to resort to name calling. You're a grown man. You should know better. I won't stoop to that level, but it crosses the line when you neglect to provide adequate security services to any President of the United States. You've gone too far, Sheriff. It's time for you to be a man when handling your responsibilities."

Holloway's letter said Sheriff Clarke's job is to "protect and serve," and said "unfortunately, you chose not to fully protect the President this week. In doing so, you failed to serve your constituents, the residents of Milwaukee County. I believe your actions constitute a dereliction of your duties, and many in the community agree with my perspective."

UW-Milwaukee Professor of Governmental Affairs Mordecai Lee felt Sheriff Clarke could've handled President Obama's visit differently. "The perfect comparison is how Scott Walker has handled the visit of the President. Walker has been polite and cordial, understanding it's an official visit. Sheriff Clarke, apparently for him, it's just another political event that he can bludgeon the County Board and County Executive with, and I don't think that was very classy," Lee said.