Intro by Jeff Rutherford
David A. Clarke, Jr. has been the Milwaukee County Sheriff since 2002. An African-American native of Milwaukee with a degree in Criminal Justice Management, he began his law enforcement career as a Milwaukee patrol officer for 11 years, then 7 years advancing up through the homicide division as a detective, and another 6 years in top leadership of the Milwaukee Police Department before being appointed to the position of County Sheriff by the Governor of Wisconsin.
Interestingly, Clarke campaigns as a Democrat whenever he’s up for election, and has won 3 sheriff elections in Milwaukee with around 75% of the vote each time. Clarke says “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.”
Sheriff Clarke spoke on September 17th this year at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., and concluded his speech with these unscripted remarks. The transcript appears below the video:
This is important. Someone mentioned Eric Holder. And I’ll be – I’m known for not sugar coating things. This pissed me off. I sat up and watched as events unfold in Ferguson MO. Unfortunate situation, obviously. Any time a law enforcement officer uses force and takes a life, it deserves a thorough transparent vetting and investigation. We all kind of agree with that.
But then some groups started to converge on the small town of Ferguson MO like vultures on a roadside carcass – groups like the New Black Panther Party, people like Al Sharpton – to come and exploit that situation. And instead of coming in to help and try to restore calm, poured gas on that fire with some of their inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric. And I sat up there and listened to Governor Nixon, and I sat up there and listened to Claire McCaskill the Senator, and then I sat up there and listened to Eric Holder throw law enforcement officers under the bus for political expediency.
These are the same individuals at election time that come around wanting support from law enforcement organizations, right? They all stand up there, “I’m supported by this fraternal organization and this police association, and I’ve received an excellent rating by the – .” They do that when they need us. But now there was an opportunity to improve their bonafides with some of these interest groups like the New Black Panther Party, to flaunt their racial sensitivity. And threw law enforcement under the bus.
I expect that from Governor Nixon. I expected that from Claire McCaskill. Those are nothing but two-bit politicians. They do that sort of – . That’s what politicians do. You know that. But I did not expect that from Eric Holder who calls himself a law enforcement officer.
And instead of talking responsibly, instead of measuring his words because that’s what is needed at a time like that – you gotta measure what you say because tensions are high and the wrong thing said can make a bad situation worse. And he sat up there and talked about how he has seen law enforcement officers profile. He’s been the victim of racial profiling himself, and he named two situations. One at a traffic stop in New Jersey and he said “I remember feeling the indignation as they searched my vehicle.” And then he talked about a situation when he was in Georgetown, not too far from here. And how he and a friend were stopped on the way to the movie theater and they felt that they were racially profiled. And he said “I was a federal prosecutor when those things happened.”
And I said, “Wait a minute. Mr. Attorney General, if you felt those officers had violated your 4th Amendment rights, and you’re a federal prosecutor and you didn’t say anything at the time? On behalf of everybody in the United States you could have done something if you felt that. You could have made a complaint.”
Because all of us kind of realize in law enforcement, right, we testify. What do they say in court? If you didn’t write it down, if you didn’t report it, it didn’t happen. And that’s what I was thinkin’. “Oh really, Mr. Attorney General? You didn’t report it then. You didn’t write it down. But you’re telling us some ten, fifteen years later for self serving purposes.”
I thought, “Why did you do that? You insulted every law enforcement officer, every man and woman that puts on that badge and uniform every day, risks their lives in service to their community.” And I thought, “How could you do that? Who cares about what happened to you? What about the people of Ferguson MO right now? Who cares about you, Eric Holder?” But he did that for self-serving purposes.
So I felt he owed an apology to every man – not to me, I’m a big boy, big shoulders – but to every person that serves in your agencies who puts on that uniform and goes out. And this man sat up there and kind of insinuated that these law enforcement officers go out with some nefarious and malicious intent in their heart, to deny people their rights, and to indiscrimately shoot and take people’s lives for nothing. And I was incensed by that. And that’s why I said something publically.
And of course he didn’t apologize. And of course he won’t apologize. I don’t expect him to. But I called him on it because that’s the same guy who shows up at the Law Enforcement Memorial here in May in Washington DC – I’ve heard him speak. I was at the one two days ago, as the name of one of my officers was placed on the wall. And he sits up there talking about the courage and commitment of our law enforcement officers across the country. And they serve with dignity and all that stuff. And I thought, “You SOB. You didn’t talk about the racial profiling then. Why you bringin’ this up now?” That’s why I said something.
So the reason why I brought this up today: Remember that the next time this guy comes in your town, alright? Because he’s on a mission with these investigations of law enforcement agencies anyway. I think right now they’re in Albuquerque NM. Just got done with Seattle. Putting these people under consent decrees, and basically identifying them as racist institutions and racist cops – so on and so forth.
So keep that in mind, OK? When he comes to visit your town and talk to your law enforcement officers or whatever. And when he does, go up and ask him, “Have you offered that apology yet, Mr. Attorney General – the one that Sheriff Clarke asked you about?” Just watch his reaction, OK?