Actually, David A. Clarke Jr. isn’t a good fit to be sheriff or work in Homeland Security

While we think Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke’s departure would be a good thing for the county and the Sheriff’s Office, that doesn’t mean we think he’s a good fit for the new job with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. salutes the flag before he speaks at the event. The Greater Milwaukee Law Enforcement Memorial Service was held at the Wisconsin Center. (Photo: Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

The sheriff has said he’s going to be appointed as an assistant secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement and will serve as a liaison with state, local and tribal law enforcement and governments. (By the way, as of this writing, that appointment had yet to be confirmed by Homeland Security.)

Maybe I’m wrong, but that sounds to me like a job that needs someone with good people skills, someone who can work with a broad array of local and federal law enforcement officials, someone who can reach across political divides to build healthy and efficient relationships.

Clarke’s is not the first name that comes to mind in thinking of candidates for such a position. Nor the second. He’s not even the last. We’d have to go through the entire population and 10 dead people before getting to Clarke.
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And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Rep. Gwen Moore penned an op-ed in which she wrote, “I can think of few men more uniquely unqualified to liaise with local law enforcement at this juncture, when the agency is ramping up immigration raids, filling detention centers (including with children) and carrying out deportations as fast as possible (including, in at least one case, without verifying the person’s legal status).”

In a Washington Post op-ed, Juliette Kayyem, who once held the job that Clarke is allegedly getting, wrote, “I’ve never met Clarke, but based on his inflammatory rhetoric, along with the cloud hanging over his tenure in Milwaukee, I’ll just come right out and say it: He’s not fit to serve at the agency tasked with domestic security for all Americans.”

In the Nation, John Nichols wrote, “If Clarke gets the job, he’ll arrive as an over-the-top Trump apologist who makes the president’s bluster about “enemy of the state” journalism and religious targeting of refugees seem mild by comparison.”

In an article in Think Progressive, Phil McNamara, who was appointed to the position between April 2013 until President Donald Trump took office on January 20, 2017, was quoted as saying that Clarke’s potential appointment was “just plain awful.”

The Huffington Post noted that Clarke is unlikely to work well with local law enforcement officials, and there are many, including in Wisconsin, who are resisting the administration’s efforts to increase deportations. “He supports Trump’s deportation crackdown and has said jurisdictions should lose their grants if they don’t comply with voluntary requests,” the article said.

Not everyone feels this way. While there were a lot of negative comments on Facebook, there also was support for the sheriff:

“Tough, Strong and No Nonsense…. Just what we need to help clean the Swamp in D.C.,” was one post.

Another read, “This is a great move by the Trump administration. Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is a welcome addition to an already stellar Homeland Security team. Share if you are excited to have the Sheriff working to protect us!”

Reaction by law enforcement officials was mixed, according to a Wall Street Journal article:

Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents police chiefs from the country’s largest cities, said Sheriff Clarke’s ideas “don’t match exactly with the chiefs in the major cities.”

“I know David will give it his all,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs Association. “I’m pleased for him and I know he’ll serve the country well.”

Thompson may know, but the rest of us can only hope. And I strongly suspect that’s a forlorn hope.

Ernst-Ulrich Franzen is the Journal Sentinel’s associate editorial page editor. Email: efranzen@jrn.com; Twitter: @efranzen1