Sheriff Clarke Speaks Out

Keeping a Boot on Crime’s Neck…
From Hindrance to Support: Funding Must follow

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. (Ret.)

The new year ushered in renewed support for local law enforcement after eight years of anti-police sentiment from the Cop-Hater-in-Chief Barack Obama. His irresponsible rhetoric caused great damage to one of the most important government institutions that exists in a free society – law enforcement. His rhetoric gave legitimacy and a voice to the anti-cop movement named Black Lives Matter. This vile movement advocated for the killing of police that played out in New York and Dallas. Obama did this for purely political purposes. It was designed as a “get out the vote” mechanism for the 2016 presidential election.

Fortunately, Americans saw right through this scheme and elected the only candidate in either party who loudly proclaimed his support for our law enforcement officers. He advocates for the men and women at the local level who put on the uniform every day and put their best foot forward to serve and protect. Then-candidate and now President Donald Trump has never wavered in that support. In fact, one of the main tenets of the Trump campaign was to “Make America Safe Again.” Trump even dedicated an entire evening during the Republican Convention in Cleveland to making America safe again.

Compare and contrast that to his opponent in the race. Hillary Clinton had an entire night during the Democratic Convention dedicated to the “Mothers of the Movement,” moms whose sons were justifiably killed in police interactions. Of course, any mom would lament the death of their child. What was ignored, however, was that just about every one of their sons was engaged in felonious conduct or threatening behavior toward a law enforcement officer before force had to be used. A better theme for that convention would have been to remind people that they have a duty to comply with the lawful commands of a law enforcement officer and that they can air their grievances later. Had Mike Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York and Freddie Gray in Baltimore done that, they would be alive today instead of household names in the war on police.

One of the worst consequences of the war on police was an attempt by politically motivated people to emasculate law enforcement officers – to make them social workers instead of crime fighters. People who advocate such policies have never done police work, have never been trained in police work, and do not live in or even visit violent crime-ridden neighborhoods. They never addressed that police officers are often under-resourced and underpaid. Instead of addressing the realities of life on the street for police, they took resources away from police and emphasized using less than lethal options and support more dialogue with armed and dangerous suspects. The saddest part is that many law enforcement executives got into bed with Obama and supported these inane ideas. It was an act of pure political pandering.

As a former sheriff, I sent law enforcement officers into harm’s way every day. The least I could do was show them that I had their back if something went horribly wrong through no fault of their own in their world of uncertainty. Many police executives ordered implicit bias indoctrination for their officers that basically threw their officers under the bus and admitted that their officers were inherently racist and in need of a lobotomy. We later learned that the implicit bias test is terribly flawed and not reliable in determining inherent bias – oops.

Former President Obama ended the 1033 program that allowed police agencies struggling with shrinking budgets to obtain military safety equipment like ballistic shields and helmets at little to no cost. He also refused to order the Department of Justice to implement legislation he signed into law that would have created a national early warning system for instances when a violent criminal is sought by another agency from another state. This is an officer safety issue. And people wonder why I call him the Cop-Hater-in-Chief.

Barack Obama is also the only president in U.S. history to visit a federal prison. While there, he commiserated with major drug dealers, people convicted of weapons offenses and other violent offenders telling them that a racist criminal justice system, not their behavior, unfairly snared them as if they are political prisoners held for simply dissenting against a dictator. Every one of them received due process before conviction. Not once did Obama express empathy for the victims left in their wake of violence or the lives ruined by the drugs sold by these miscreants. He never balanced that misstep by visiting a victim’s shelter while president to comfort a victim of domestic violence or whose child was killed by gang violence.

It’s only one year into President Trump’s administration and he continues to loudly articulate and demonstrate support for the nation’s local law enforcement officers. He re-instituted the 1033 program. He appointed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to head the U.S. Department of Justice. Sessions ended the takeover of police departments through expensive and onerous reporting requirement consent decrees. These decrees keep officers off the streets writing reports instead of spending quality time patrolling high-crime areas. They make officers less assertive as they serve and protect. These politically motivated consent decrees hurt minority residents who live in high-crime areas as law enforcement officers become less aggressive in going after violent offenders for fear of some politically motivated witch hunt against them as we saw in Baltimore in the death of Freddy Gray.

After years of increased line-of-duty police deaths, there appears to be a leveling off. Notice I referred to it as “leveling off,” whereas some refer to this as a decrease in police killings. While these incidents are trending in the right direction, I remind them that the acceptable number of officers killed in the line of duty is zero. Until we get to that number, city and county officials must properly fund law enforcement agencies so they are properly staffed, equipped, and trained.

Now that some categories of reportable crime seem to be decreasing, there will be the misguided temptation by city and county boards to take a peace dividend and cut back on police budgets. This happens during every period of decrease in crime rates. They still have not learned that when reported crime decreases, you don’t let up – you keep your boot on its neck so it stays down.

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. (Ret.) was the 64th Sheriff of Milwaukee County. He has appeared on many of the national news stations to defend the law enforcement profession.