It's not encouraging to hear that President Trump has appointed Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to a non-confirmation post at the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke's intemperate behavior on Twitter might perhaps be perfectly suited to the Trump administration, but his reputation as a law enforcement officer doesn't seem well suited to any appointment at all. The main result of this appointment seems to be that Milwaukee County might finally get a sheriff who actually does some sheriff-ing instead of traveling the country giving speeches all the time.
Clarke's tenure as sheriff has some pretty egregious blemishes — and it's stuff that's pretty recent, not ancient history. In one high-profile case from 2013, a 24-year-old student named Tanya Weyker was t-boned by a Milwaukee County deputy. Her neck was broken in the accident. But instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, the deputy arrested her for driving under the influence (her urine and blood samples later came back completely clean) and lied about the fact that he had caused the accident by running a stop sign.
Where does Clarke come into this? His office knew just two days after the crash of the existence of an airport surveillance video showing the deputy had lied — that he had been the cause of the accident, not Weyker. Instead of dropping the case and investigating the deputy, they went after Weyker full bore for the next ten months, which included sending her threatening letters demanding she pay for the damage to the squad car that hit her. Finally, sanity prevailed when prosecutors declined to press charges against her.
She sued, accusing Clarke of taking part in a coverup. The County ultimately settled and paid out the state maximum $250,000 for lawsuits against government entities. She also won $30,000 plus attorneys' fees after filing a federal civil rights case.
Now, you can make the case that perhaps a sheriff wouldn't be personally aware of such things going on at a lower level. Perhaps that also explains why an inmate would die of dehydration in the custody of the jail he runs, as also occurred recently. But if you believe in accountability in government and responsible leadership, you at some point have to lay some blame at the top — not necessarily for the actions of a single dishonest officer or his colleagues on the scene of the accident he caused, but certainly for the fact that an innocent citizen was persecuted for 10 months after his deputy put her in the hospital.
Clarke persistently dodged the reporters who tried to interview him about the case at the time — after five refusals from his public relations officer, they chased him down on the campaign trail, only to be told to buzz off. The buck stops ... where?
Conservatives who like Clarke just because he's a law and order icon and takes shots at Black Lives Matter should be wary about his elevation, given his actual record running a law enforcement agency.