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Sheriff David Clarke calls upon City of Milwaukee to hire 400 new police officers

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke spoke before Milwaukee's Public Safety Committee on Friday, June 24th to weigh in on the effort to combat violence in the city. From Clarke's perspective, the bottom line is Milwaukee needs to hire hundreds of new police officers, enforce quality-of-life issues more harshly, and completely revamp the juvenile justice system.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke

The sheriff told aldermen on the committee that "hot-spot" policing works on a limited basis. Clarke said what the city needs is more cops; "A consistently visible presence." So his first suggestion to the committee was to hire 400 new police officers in addition to replacing any retired officers.

"They are understaffed and under siege, just keeping up with calls for service," Clarke said.

Alderman Terry Witkowski asked the sheriff how the city can pay for 400 new officers. He noted budget cuts are not exactly popular while the state has limited the city's ability to tax.

Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton

Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said the city will take a close look at MPD staffing.

"I don't want to be chasing a mythical number out there -- and it's no longer practical for us to have that goal," Hamilton said. "We need to do a reassessment of what the right staffing levels are for a city of our size and the crime we have in our city."

The city is already facing a potential wave of MPD retirements. More than 300 officers will be eligible for retirement over the next 18 months. Hamilton says the most recent city budget has funding to hire 130 more officers.

"I think we can maximize that by retaining some (officers eligible for retirement) and at the very least, try to match what we did last year," Hamilton said.

Sheriff Clarke also called for more "broken windows-type policing."

"I think it has to include tactics like stop-question-and-frisk, continual warrant sweeps to get these bad actors off the street, heavy traffic enforcement," Clarke said.

Sheriff David Clarke speaks at Public Safety Committee meeting

Sheriff David Clarke speaks at Public Safety Committee meeting

The ACLU of Wisconsin says such tactics could worsen an already existing mistrust between police and those living in high-crime neighborhoods.

Chris Ahmuty

Chris Ahmuty

"I'd say the bottom line is: it's good he's part of this conversation. But to a large extent, he's out of step," said Chris Ahmuty of the Wisconsin ACLU.

Critics of "broken windows" policing also say it can destroy a neighborhood over multiple generations. By having much of its men incarcerated, many children grow up without proper guidance. Clarke also attacked that argument.

"The family unit in the Milwaukee ghetto is in tatters. There is no family structure," Clarke said, "Why are we trying to preserve that? There is none. Let’s not fool ourselves."

Critics of the sheriff in the tiny audience snickered when the committee's chairman, Alderman Bob Donovan, asked Clarke if crime was also rising in the suburbs. Clarke responded by saying, "I don't know," prompting a pair of onlookers to remark, "It's your county."

In his final suggestion, Clarke called for a total redesign of the juvenile justice system. He said it must be updated for a time when teens are now committing serious crimes like armed carjacking.

"Doesn't have the support system at home, he's not going to school, he's never had a job. You cannot work with that guy with a program and think you're going to change behavior," he said.

Clarke also suggested the county's House of Correction could house serious juvenile offenders. He told the committee there are currently five unoccupied dorms there with a capacity for 70 beds each. A spokeswoman at the county executive's office says while there are five unoccupied dorms, only one can hold 70 inmates. Three others have a capacity of 60 and the other can hold 30 -- a total of 280 beds.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said he would happily accept 400 new police officers on his force, but wonders how to pay for them. Alderman Witkowski estimates it would cost about $40 million. An MPD spokesman tells Fox 6 that estimate is accurate.

Clarke said extended hours in the justice system would also go a long way.

"The cops work 24/7," Clarke said, "Why does the rest of the criminal justice system work a 9-5? They’re shut down for 16 hours while we’re arresting people."

Next week, representatives from county and city courts will meet with the Public Safety Committee.


  • Klaatu

    Sheriff Clarke has a solution to the problem of reducing crime, but the pansy ass liberal leaders (Mayor McTrolley and his wimpy court jestors) refuse to listen. Instead of dealing with criminals as “criminals” they decide to dish out hugs and cookies instead of jail time thinking that will change the way these animals think.
    NEWS FLASH Mr. McTrolley, the system you created is broken. Let someone who has a solution fix it.
    Where will the money come from?
    Cut off ALL aid and supplementary income to the households of the offenders. These animals and their keepers are laughing their way to the bank with tax payer dollars as soon as they’re out on probation…..then they pop out a few more animals to get more money. Try dishing out contraceptive pills instead of welfare checks.

    • Clemenza

      Spot on! Clarke is the only one that makes any sense. Matter of fact they should give him all the resources and let him run a county wide task force of 400 special officers with some punching power.
      Quality of life law enforcement on steroids. Anyone caught breaking the law should have their ebt cards revoked and let them starve. Only the real needy should have any form of help. Time to bring the big hammer down on kilwaukee.

  • JokeEnthusiast

    For Sheriff Clarke I have this response: Show me the money!

    Did you know that the Police Dept. takes up 45% of the City budget? If the Sheriff has any bright ideas on how to hire more cops without diverting more money from other worthy city services such as roads, the fire department, the municipal court, etc. I’m all ears.

    Instead he bloviates and pontificates because he doesn’t have the responsibility of protecting the City of Milwaukee. Instead he plays cowboy and pretends that he has answers. What he should be doing with his unearned spotlight is convincing the state to provide more shared revenue (our duly owed tax dollars) so we can accomplish the things he proposes. If he can’t do that, he should ride his proverbial horse into the sunset.

    • grunt

      How about using the trolly money?
      “Duly owed tax dollars” from shared revenue? Milwaukee gets more than its fair share.

  • Should be simple

    On multiple occasions, I have seen groups of about 5 or 6 officers hanging out in one spot on water street for hours. They stand in a circle, talk to each other, and play with their cell phones. I have seen the same thing multiple times at Brewer games too. I’m sure that they do respond when a call is made, but what would happen to you if you stood around like that at work? Maybe it’s more about realocating existing resources that are currently abusing their paychecks than hiring more officers. I know that the stadium probably has a different force and I know that many officers more than earn their pay, but trim the fat before dumping funds into a system that could be better with existing resources.

    • Stuff

      Those events are staffed exclusively on overtime. (I.e. the officer would’ve otherwise been off) Those specific deployments do not respond to general calls for service. The Miller Park overtime is paid for by The Brewers. It costs the taxpayers nothing.

      • Should be simple

        I understand what you are saying about the Brewer’s games as far as an event. Despite the source of pay, the officers are not bringing honor to their uniform. If those officers can’t respond to anything else and are being paid without tax dollars, they shouldn’t be using equipment that is paid for with tax dollars, just like security anywhere else. Regarding water street, those aren’t events, that’s any given Friday or Saturday night.

    • fless43

      So you don’t want cops deployed on standby in the entertainment district you’re clearly saying. Then, when a large free-for-all breaks out and cops can’t respond in a timely enough matter you’ll blame the police for not getting there fast enough. Those cops are there to IMMEDIATELY nip any problems in the bud and prevent anything small from blowing up at a moment’s notice. There’s no winning for people like you

      • Should be simple

        FLESS43, I’m not saying that there should not be an available police presence. I’m saying that in any job I’ve ever had, I’m expected to do that job while on the clock. Doing that job for the officers mentioned means actively looking for crime and possibly patrolling, not standing in a circle talking about unrelated things and playing on cell phones. -Actively- building community relations and -actively – preventing crime is not too much to expect. There absolutely is winning with me. Do your job when you are being paid to do so – should be simple. I know that it is, because for as many officers that I have seen not doing it, I’ve seen examples of positive role models too. But again, in other jobs the loafers don’t last so long.

  • polymorph

    Wisconsin has a budget surplus so the $40mil. isn’t the problem it’s the liberal judges letting the little napoleons repeat repeat repeat and if that’s fixed then we need at least 2 more max. prisons and that’s where the money problems come in.

  • imcrazy

    I like the ideas presented here but 400 new officers would be costly. This could be a national endeavor. Take the money going over seas and get the armed service members back on USA soil. We need more security forces to protect the honest citizens. Remember the Warsaw ghetto? The USA has it’s ghettos too. I’m not saying getting rid of any race in particular, just the criminals.


    What exacly does the ACLU want? They want the high crime area people protected, but they don’t want the police in there because it would be profiling. The ACLU is a complete joke.

  • Scott Gunnell

    Possibly one of the most impressive Sherriff’s I have seen in my 43 years, and I am not even from Wisconsin. I am a white, middle aged rancher from Texas…you know how hard it is to admit that this guy is better than most Texan Sherriff’s when I am a Texan? Well, that’s what I have to do, call it how it is.


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