Controversial Milwaukee County sheriff resigns suddenly

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 11:06pm

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jnr, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump who came under scrutiny for the conditions in his jail, resigned on Thursday.

Clarke’s resignation took effect at midnight, Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said.

It’s unclear why Clarke resigned. A long-time adviser to the sheriff, Craig Peterson, said Clarke is unlikely to make any public comments until next week, after Labour Day.

Asked whether Clarke, a lifelong Milwaukee resident who served as sheriff since 2002, is considering a potential move out of the Milwaukee area, Peterson would only say, “Anything’s a potential.”

According to a person close to Clarke, he is likely to join an outside group that supports the president’s agenda. An announcement could come as early as next week. A second person familiar with the matter said Clarke was not expected to join the Trump administration. Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier this year, Clarke withdrew his name from consideration for an assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security.

Christenson declined to comment on the contents of Clarke’s resignation letter or any reason the sheriff provided for his decision to leave his post. The resignation came with no notice, Christenson said, adding he will next alert Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker, who will decide on the appointment of a replacement.

A Democrat whose heated rhetoric, sharp views and conservative political base more closely align with the Republican Party, Clarke became a regular commentator on Fox News and used the platform to criticise President Barack Obama and his policies.

He became one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters during last year’s election, delivering a much-discussed address at the Republican National Convention. Clarke’s name was mentioned as a potential Homeland Security secretary early in the transition, but insiders worried that a number of scandals and controversial statements could hinder the sheriff’s ability to win Senate confirmation.

Clarke has compared the Black Lives Matter protest movement to the Ku Klux Klan, suggesting it would team with Islamic State to overthrow the federal government. He labelled anti-Trump demonstrators “anarchists” and said blacks sell drugs “because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt”.

Controversial US sheriff David Clarke withdraws from top post in Trump administration

At least four people died in the Milwaukee County jail between April 2015 and November 2016, including a newborn baby whose birth occurred without Clarke’s staff knowing about it. In another case, his staff were accused of withholding water for a week from an inmate who eventually died.

While he was under consideration for the Homeland Security job, reports surfaced that Clarke had plagiarised portions of his master’s thesis. He disputed those claims and called the CNN reporter who broke the story “a sleaze bag”.

Clarke attended the National Fraternal Order of Police annual convention in Nashville on Thursday. His Twitter feed has remained quiet since news of his resignation. The sheriff’s last tweet, published about an hour before the county clerk’s office received his resignation letter, was a promotion for his book, Cop Under Fire. Trump praised the book on Twitter last month.

Peterson said Clarke wished to let the Milwaukee community know he appreciates the support it has shown for him over the past 15 years.