Sheriff Clarke speaks out about bus safety, deputy layoffs

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MILWAUKEE -- Friction between the Milwaukee County Sheriff and Milwaukee County Executive got a bit more intense Monday. The issue continues to be bus security, the number of deputies on Milwaukee's streets and money. Monday afternoon, Sheriff David Clarke held a press conference to discuss what he called County Executive Chris Abele's "phony politics."

Recent assaults on Milwaukee County buses prompted County Executive Abele to respond, and Sheriff Clarke's news conference Monday was held to respond to that response. "Chris Abele had the audacity to look into the camera and say that public safety was a priority of his, and he called for enhanced security on Milwaukee County buses," Sheriff Clarke said.

Clarke and Abele have recently taken verbal shots at one another regarding each other's abilities since Abele cut Clarke's budget. "Keep in mind that he cut public safety funding by $14 million this year, and recently sued me to force the layoff of up to 61 sheriff's deputies," Sheriff Clarke said.

Abele says the layoffs are to bring Clarke within his reduced budget, but Clarke says personnel hasn't told him how many cuts to make. A judge may put the cuts in the hands of the County Board.

Clarke says the recent bus assaults, including a recent stabbing, highlight the need for a designated deputy unit on County buses. Clarke's proposal is 50 deputies and five supervisors, at a cost of $5.5 to $6 million. "I'll send a formal notification to the County chair, and the County Executive this week," Sheriff Clarke said.

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway says he welcomes the proposal, if it comes with a funding plan. "I'm still waiting on any particular creativity the sheriff will come up with that will not increase tax dollars," Holloway said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has said some of his officers can help with bus security, but Clarke says that's a band-aid approach to the problem.

Abele's office said he wasn't available for an interview Monday, but that they would send a statement, but FOX6 has yet to receive that statement.