Sheriff David Clarke Has ‘Chosen To Retire To Pursue Other Opportunities’

Milwaukee County's Conservative Firebrand Leaving Post

Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

Milwaukee County’s controversial firebrand sheriff David Clarke says he’s retiring to “pursue other opportunities.”

Clarke submitted a brief resignation letter Thursday afternoon to Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson.

“This communication is submitted as the notice of my resignation as Sheriff of Milwaukee County commencing August 31, 2017, at 11:59 p.m.” Clarke wrote.

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Clarke was attending a Fraternal Order of Police convention Thursday in Nashville and was unavailable to elaborate on what was first reported as a resignation with no explanation. Clarke later released a statement Thursday evening stating, “After almost 40 years serving the great people of Milwaukee County, I have chosen to retire to pursue other opportunities. I will have news about my next steps in the very near future.”

Clarke’s resignation takes effect at midnight.

While he was elected to multiple terms as a Democrat, Clarke gained national attention in recent years as an outspoken conservative, cable news regular and early supporter of President Donald Trump.

Earlier this year, Clarke announced plans to join the Trump administration as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but weeks later removed himself from consideration for the role.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says Clarke’s resignation is an opportunity “to make some big steps forward” in the department.

Abele repeatedly clashed with Clarke over the years and on Thursday called their relationship “complicated.”

Around the time news broke of Clarke’s resignation, Abele tweeted a gif without comment of former President Barack Obama clapping. But Abele was more restrained while speaking with reporters outside his office.

Abele said that with Clarke’s departure, the county has a chance to improve operations at the jail, where four inmates died last year. One of the inmates died of dehydration and prosecutors are considering criminal charges against some of Clarke’s jail staff in that case.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, released a statement Thursday afternoon praising Clarke’s decision.

“This is truly a good Thursday. I want to thank Sheriff Clarke for his decision to step down. After years of abuse at his hands, the people of Milwaukee can sleep soundly tonight,” Taylor said in the statement.

News of Clarke’s departure was first reported by Mark Belling, a conservative talk radio host.

Gov. Scott Walker will appoint a successor to head the sheriff’s office. Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson said the Republican governor will move forward with filling the vacancy once his office receives formal notification of the resignation.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 6:03 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017.