Another day of the David Clarke saga, and another 42 column inches of newsprint, not counting the two photos, in the Journal Sentinel.
What do we know that we didn't know yesterday about Clarke's vindictive decision to send a lone deputy, Michael Schuh, on a foot patrol in Milwaukee's central city?
We know that Schuh's claim that Clarke is escorted by armed deputies when he goes to the airport is true, and that he has deputies check his home when he is out of town. Clarke says he ordered his house checked because he has had death threats. And deputies accompany him at Mitchell Field because he is unarmed, he said.
Most of us at Mitchell Field are unarmed, if we have any expectation that we will get through the metal detector and screening to board our flight. Does the sheriff think someone is lying in ambush at Mitchell Field, hoping he'll walk through some day so they can carry out their death threat? Or will they carry out their death threat at his home when he's out of town?
We also know that Clarke both agrees that Schuh's assignment is "high risk," but says Schuh should not be afraid. "This isn't about him," Clarke said, but about neighborhood safety.
Of course it's about Schuh, who got the one-man foot patrol assignment after criticizing Clarke in a union newsletter. It is retaliation, pure and simple.
Asked by the paper if he had retaliated against Schuh, Clarke didn't deny it, but simply said the courts would decide that. The deputies union has filed a complaint. Even given the uncertainties of any legal case, this one seems like a slam dunk. If Schuh's assignment is about neighborhood safety and not about him, where are the other deputies? Off patrolling the freeway, that's where.
And we know that Clarke continues to threaten retaliation against anyone who challenges or criticizes him.
"One cannot expect, internally, that if they make some criticism against the sheriff that they will never be reassigned, that they will be immune from accountability," Clarke said. Never be reassigned? How about immediately reassigned?
As to whether Clarke is putting a deputy in unnecessary danger, let's just quote from the story again:
"The Milwaukee Police Department assigns foot patrols in pairs in high-crime central city areas because of concerns about officer safety," police spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said Tuesday.
Finally, there is this: Clarke, showing that he isn't immune from danger as sheriff, tells of making an arrest in 2003 of a man with a butcher knife, after being flagged down by a citizen. "In an act of selflessness, I put the community's safety first and I expect the people in this organization to do the same." He added: "Where was my backup?"
It is not extraordinary to expect a 20-year police veteran, who is armed, to respond to an emergency if he happens to be on the scene. That's what Clarke did. That's his job, even if he happens to be the head of the department.
That is far different from the situation he's put Schuh in, where he deliberately is exposing him to danger with no backup officer. The sheriff's department didn't even let Milwaukee police know of Schuh's new assignment in the central city, although MPD certainly knows about it now and says officers will look out for Schuh, as will off-duty sheriff's deputies.
This is not about courage, although David Clarke would like to make it so. I don't doubt Clarke's courage, and I certainly don't doubt Schuh's.
Clarke is right when he says that people should not be afraid to walk down the street in any neighborhood in Milwaukee. But that's not reality. Just a few days ago I read the story about the homeowner in a gang-infested neighborhood who does his yard and garden work at 6 a.m. and goes in the house for good by 10 a.m. every day.
If Clarke wants to make those streets and neighborhoods safe, he should sit down with Police Chief Nan Hegarty and put together a joint plan to do it, instead of acting like a rogue cop who makes his own rules,, retaliates if anyone questions him, and puts his own men in harm's way unnecessarily.Previous post:
"Clarke could show real leadership by patrolling central city himself." Folkbum's view.UPDATE:
Even the conservatives, like WTMJ talker Jeff Wagner and blogger Jessica McBride/Bucher
, think Clarke has stepped way over the line. When they won't defend him, he is in real trouble.