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Clarke Says He’ll Take Homeland Security Job In Trump Administration

Milwaukee County Sheriff Plans To Step Down In June

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says he’ll be stepping down next month to take a job with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

He announced his plan to “accept an appointment as an assistant secretary” with the agency Wednesday afternoon on WISN Radio. Clarke, who has held his current office since 2002, said he would serve as a liaison for DHS with state, local and tribal government officials, as well as the private sector.

In an emailed statement, a DHS spokeswoman declined to confirm Clarke’s statement, saying appointments of that type become official when they’re announced by the agency’s secretary.

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The sheriff, a conservative firebrand and long-time source of controversy in Wisconsin, rose to national prominence more recently as an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump and his name had consistently been discussed as a potential homeland security official for the new administration.

But he’s also come under scrutiny because of a series of recent deaths at the county jail, which his office oversees.

That includes Terrill Thomas, who died in 2016 of profound dehydration after being deprived of water for seven days.

Clarke’s announcement comes just two weeks after an inquest into Thomas’ death recommended criminal charges against as many as seven staffers. Clarke wasn’t among them.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, a long-time Clarke critic, said he is “genuinely excited” about the chance to work with a new sheriff but added, “the last thing America needs is another loud voice angrily and unproductively telling you who to blame and who not to trust.”

State Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, called Clarke’s departure good news locally, but said it affirms Trump’s lack of clear judgment and regard for the safety of the nation.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy West has often clashed with Clarke. She said she doesn’t understand why the Trump administration would want the sheriff, given his frequent speaking tours elsewhere.

“When you have a sheriff, an elected official, who can show you he’s spent very little time in the county in which he is charged with policing, that’s troubling,” West said.

The State Democratic Party said recent deaths at the Milwaukee County Jail show Clarke has no business working at the Department of Homeland Security.

Progressive Moms of Milwaukee, Uplifting Black Liberation and Community and All People’s Church issued the following statement in reaction to Clarke’s announcement:

“As the walls close in on him in the investigation into the deaths of four people under his watch, he cannot duck his sworn duty to the residents of Milwaukee County despite his silence and absence. Our nation is about to learn what we already know: Sheriff Clarke is all hat and no cattle,” the statement reads. “We expect District Attorney John Chisholm to also hold everyone who was responsible for any inhumane treatment and deaths of any inmates accountable including Sheriff Clarke.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, to include additional comments on Clarke’s announcement.

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