Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is known for his outspoken comments on guns, Black Lives Matter, and revolution, as well as the cowboy hat he frequently wears in television and public appearances.
On May 17, conservative talk show host Vikki McKenna announced that Clarke had confirmed on her show that he was accepting a position as assistant secretary of Homeland Security in the Donald Trump administration. However, Clarke never ended up assuming that job. Clarke resigned as Milwaukee County sheriff on August 31 without citing a reason.
Clarke, a speaker on the Republican National Convention’s “Make America Safe Again” night, caused controversy by telling CNN’s Don Lemon that he had predicted the Baton Rouge police shootings. However, such incendiary commentary is nothing new for Clarke, an outspoken sheriff and former homicide detective who runs for office as a Democrat but is well known for his conservative views.
He opened his speech by saying loudly, “Blue Lives Matter in America!”
Clarke calls himself the “People’s Sheriff,” and often rides in Milwaukee parades on a horse while wearing a cowboy hat. On August 14, after violence broke out on the streets of Milwaukee after the police shooting of an armed man, he called for the National Guard. Clarke blamed the policies of “liberal Democrats” in the wake of the riots, in which businesses were burned to the ground and Milwaukee police officers injured. (Watch video of the unrest here.)
“The Milwaukee riots should be the last time the policies of liberal Democrats are held up as anything other than misery-inducing, divisive, exploitative and racist manipulation of the urban populations,” he wrote. “Unfortunately they won’t.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Clarke Told Lemon He Predicted The Baton Rouge Shootings, Is a Critic of Black Lives Matter & Has Spoken of a Second American Revolution
An appearance on the Don Lemon show shortly before the convention escalated to the point where Lemon said he believed Clarke might be accusing him of supporting violence.
Clarke said on the show, “My message has been clear from day one two years ago. This anti-cop sentiment from this hateful ideology called Black Lives Matter has fueled this rage against the American police officer. I predicted this two years ago…This anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country has turned out some hateful things inside of people that are now playing themselves out on the American police officer.”
Clarke frequently chastises the media and Black Lives Matter for not talking more about black-on-black crime. He said to Lemon: “I want to know with all of the black on black violence in the United States of America, by the way, when the tragedies happened in Louisiana and Minnesota, do you know that 21 black people were murdered across the United States? Was there any reporting on it?”
Lemon asked Clarke to “keep it down,” to which Clarke replied, “I’m looking at three dead cops this week and I’m looking at five dead last…you’re trying to tell me to keep it down?” When Lemon said he wants to keep things civil, Clarke told him, “Don, I wish you had that message of civility towards this hateful ideology, these purveyors of hate. That’s what they do. These people create vile and virtue in the name of hate.” Clarke was already making fun of the Lemon appearance on Facebook:
Clarke made a similar point about the August Milwaukee riots. Clarke criticized the fact that murders in the city did not receive the same attention.
He appeared on Fox Business on Aug. 15 to discuss the Milwaukee unrest. Watch:
Clarke’s appearance on The Don Lemon show wasn’t the first time his colorful commentary made waves. Clarke makes frequent appearances on national conservative and other television and radio shows, where he weighs in on national and international issues. Clarke frequently refers to the Black Lives Matter movement as “Black Lies Matter”:
He accused Black Lives Matter of being a “hateful ideology.” In July 2016, he wrote, “All Black LIES Matter schophants report NOW to Chicago to rally in support of the real problem in America, black on black homicides.”
In 2015, he went on the Alex Jones show nationally and “warned of a second American Revolution if cops have to enforce extreme gun control measures,” said The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Clarke then went on the Jeanine Pirro show and repeated the point. Watch:
On the Pirro show, Clarke said he had made the comments on Revolution after being asked if he would “participate in assisting the feds in coming into states and going into homes to take people’s guns away.” He said he would refuse (he told The Journal Sentinel even in the case of an executive order).
“I wouldn’t want to get shot. The American people are only going to put up with so much before they will push back. If the feds try to do that, disarm this country, you will see an uprising and maybe a version of the Second American Revolution. Just read the Declaration of Independence. It’s right in there.” He again repeated to Pirro that he was talking about the federal government “forcing their way into homes and removing firearms.”
Clarke told Jones, according to The Journal Sentinel, “Read the Declaration of Independence. It’s right there, where law-abiding people say, ‘Enough is enough — you’re exerting too much influence in our lives. This is tyrannical, and we’re going to stop it.’ That’s what they’re worried about.”
When the reporter asked if he stood by his statements “about the possibility of another American Revolution over guns,” he responded, “I’m sure in 1776 that idea seemed way out there, too, at the time. The American people will decide when to push back, not me.”
2. Clarke Filmed PSAs Urging Citizens to Arm Themselves & Is a Strident Critic of President Obama & Radical Islam
In 2013, Clarke filmed a series of public service announcements that aired widely in the Milwaukee area and urged people to arm themselves rather than waiting to call 911. According to NPR, he made the move after his department’s budget was cut. NPR quotes one of the Clarke PSAs as saying:
“I’m Sheriff David Clarke, and I want to talk to you about something personal: your safety…You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you could fight back. But are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”
You can listen to a Clarke PSA here.
Clarke has called the NRA, which he strongly supports, a “civil rights” group:
After the Dallas police shootings, Clarke controversially tweeted of Obama: “American needs Obama to get out of bed & address Dallas situation NOW. He poured gas on this situation with his dog whistle message earlier.”
Clarke has referred to “Islamism” as a “sick ideology” that needs destroying:
Clarke often criticizes President Obama in very personal terms.
Clarke has described Obama’s “domestic policy doctrine” as being: “Create chaos and social commotion.” He’s called the president “delusional.”
3. Clarke Is Married To a Realtor & Was a Milwaukee Police Detective For Years
Sheriff Clarke was born and raised in the City of Milwaukee, and was a member of the Marquette University High School basketball team, which won a state private school championship in 1973 (Marquette is a Catholic High School.) He and his wife, Julie Clarke, built a home in the city. His official bio says Julie Clarke is a realtor. The Clarkes do not have children.
A profile on Clarke in Milwaukee Magazine said his father was an Army veteran who parachuted into combat in the Korean War before returning to Milwaukee to raise five children with his wife and work in the post office. Clarke, who was born in 1956, always followed orders, his father told the magazine.
Milwaukee Magazine described Clarke as “Six-foot-four in black cowboy boots and GQ handsome.” Added the magazine, “Raised in a white neighborhood, educated in a white high school and married to a white woman, Clarke has also faced claims that he is ‘not black enough.’”
Clarke started his career with the Milwaukee Police Department in 1978, and served 24 years with that department. According to his official biography, he served 11 years as a patrol officer and “received meritorious citations for felony arrests.” He became a detective in 1989, and was assigned to the homicide division, “where he was part of a team that investigated more than 400 homicides in a four-year period.”
Clarke was promoted in 1992, to Lieutenant of Detectives and was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Bureau as Shift Commander of the Crimes Against Property Division, the Violent Crimes Unit, and again to the Homicide Division. In 1996, he was promoted to MPD’s command staff as Captain of Police, and soon became Commander of the Department’s First District, located in Milwaukee’s downtown business and entertainment center.
Clarke rose through the ranks to become commanding officer of the MPD’s Intelligence Division, his bio says, and served as the MPD’s liaison with the United States Attorney’s office as coordinator of a violent crime reduction program called CEASEFIRE, which focused on illegal use of firearms. His bio says he has a degree in Criminal Justice Management from Wisconsin’s Concordia University. In 2013, he received an M.A. in Security Studies from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, in Monterey, California.
4. Clarke Praises Donald Trump & Is a Supporter of Scott Walker
Clarke has been vocal about his support of Donald Trump for president. He has a website called thepeoplessheriff.com, on which he has written: “I cannot wait until January 20, 2017 when President Obama leaves the White House for the last time. And I hope, I pray that Donald J. Trump becomes the next commander-in-chief…”
On Twitter, Clarke frequently rails at Hillary Clinton:
He’s retweeted Trump and defended Trump, writing in March of protesters at a Trump rally: “Yesterday I called the anarchists who raided the Chicago Trump event goons and creeps. It was a gross understatement.”
Clarke spoke on a convention night focused on safety issues. Other speakers included survivors of the Benghazi attack and the author of the book, “Lone Survivor.”
5. Clarke Is The Elected Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Runs As a Democrat & Is Frequently Seen in Public On a Horse & Wearing a Cowboy Hat
Clarke is well known in Wisconsin for riding around on horses, often while wearing a cowboy hat. He says on Twitter that he has a horse named Ranger.
Clarke was first appointed by a Republican governor, Scott McCallum, to be Milwaukee County Sheriff. He was elected in 2002 for his first four-term term as the Sheriff of largely Democratic Milwaukee County, which is Wisconsin’s most populous and diverse county. He won with 64 percent of the vote, but has increased his popularity with voters ever since. According to his bio, “Sheriff Clarke is now in his fourth term, having been re-elected in November 2006, 2010, and 2014, increasing his victory margins to 73%, 74% and 79% respectively.”
However, the fact he runs as a Democrat has enraged some of Wisconsin’s liberal bloggers who see him as anything but due to his outspoken, usually conservative views. For example, he frequently rails against “liberals” and “modern liberalism” and against abortion.
On his website, Clarke has explained that he doesn’t believe law enforcement is political, writing, “Like me, most people question why the Office of Sheriff is a partisan election. I have never asked a person to vote for me because I run as a Democrat. I ask them to vote for me based on my 35-year commitment to keeping citizens safe. Most voters get it when it comes to public safety. There is no Democrat or Republican way to be a sheriff. The enemy is not the opposing party; the enemy is the criminal.”
Clarke calls himself the “People’s Sheriff” and frequently evokes western terminology.
He has also frequently clashed with Milwaukee Democratic African-American political leadership. One state legislator, Mandela Barnes, once controversially said of Clarke, “I don’t even accept him as black.”