Why So Many People Are Furious About Trump's Reported New Homeland Security Pick

May 19th 2017

Mike Rothschild

Lost among the flood of news about President Donald Trump and the investigation into Russia was the news that controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke claimed to have accepted a position in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Clarke is a frequent contributor on Fox News, but is also an active law enforcement officer. In that guise, he's generated enormous controversy for his record, his media profile, and his incendiary statements (particularly on Twitter).

While his position hasn't been confirmed by DHS, if he indeed has been offered the job of heading the Office of Partnership and Engagement, Clarke wouldn't require Senate confirmation. This has police reform advocates extremely concerned about what Clarke would do with little oversight and a role coordinating anti-terrorism initiatives and conducting outreach to local police forces.

Clarke was first elected Sheriff of Milwaukee County in 2002, and has been re-elected four times. Despite his relatively easy path to re-election, Clarke has been criticized for being mostly absentee, due to his frequent media appearances and national profile.

His jail has been a particular focus of criticism, too.

He's known for being particularly harsh on African-American drug offenders, as marijuana arrests in his county have exploded. His county has the highest rate of disproportionate incarceration of black men in the United States.

A report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found 10 deaths between 2008 and 2013, and another four deaths in 2016. One was of a mentally ill man denied water for seven days, while another was a newborn baby boy, who died after his mother was forced to give birth alone in the middle of the night with no medical assistance.

In response, both the Journal Sentinel and local lawmakers called on Clarke to resign, to which the sheriff responded by tweeting that the allegations were "fake news" and telling his critics to "stop embracing criminals."

Even without the shocking record of policing that Clarke has complied, his public statements are enough to give anyone pause.

He also has a strain of paramilitary zeal, recently catching flack for wearing what appears to be military badges on his uniform.

His attire prompted comparisons on social media to the medals worn by African strongman dictators, as well as the "pieces of flair" forced on restaurant employees in the movie "Office Space."

Now, among his most outlandish statements:

Clarke has called for suspected terrorists to have their constitutional rights suspended, for the roundup and detention of Americans who "sympathize" with terrorists, and spoken of a "war on police officers" despite police deaths dropping in the last decade. He's also called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group conspiring with ISIS to "take down the West," and claimed that dissent against Trump must be "quelled," tweeting "there is no legitimate reason to protest the will of the people.”

Furhermore, Clarke has links to far-right militia movements, anti-government groups, and is a vocal conspiracy theorist.

He's a member of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an extremist "Patriot" group that believes the county sheriff is the highest law enforcement authority in the country. He has frequently called for revolution and violent uprising, making references to mobs armed with "pitchforks and torches" taking to the streets to protest the inevitable confiscation of firearms.

He's also called for protests against Trump to be violently put down through martial law, tear gas, and mobilizing the National Guard.

Clarke has a nearly 62 percent disapproval rating, and research firm Public Policy Poling found he has "almost no chance" of being re-elected in 2018. And despite audio of him claiming to have been offered a DHS appointment, the department itself hasn't confirmed the move. If Clarke isn't actually appointed to Homeland Security, it's likely his public service career will be over soon.