David Clarke is no longer Milwaukee County’s sheriff.
Clarke gained national notoriety as a major supporter for President Donald Trump and for past inflammatory remarks on Fox News and social media, such as when he called a black CNN commentator a “jigaboo” and repeatedly claimed that Black Lives Matter is a “hate group” and a “terror organization.”
His resignation letter officially came in at 3:17 pm on Thursday, according to local news reports. Prominent local and state Democrats have been calling for Clarke’s resignation for months, especially following deaths — including that of a baby — in his jail.
It remains unclear what Clarke will do next. Previously, he suggested that he was being considered for a post at Trump’s Department of Homeland Security — but that ended up unconfirmed. After the resignation, an official at the Department of Homeland Security told CNN that Clarke will not be going there.
Clarke is known for inflammatory comments and deaths in his jail
Clarke is perhaps best known for his prolific social media feed and appearances on Fox News, where he regularly blasts liberals, critics of Trump, and — especially — the Black Lives Matter movement’s attempts to draw attention to the vast racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
For example, Clarke previously said that Black Lives Matter does not “care about black lives. They care about their own radical ideology of terrorism: anarchy.” He also argued that Black Lives Matter has encouraged attacks on police (it never has), and that it’s an “insidious terror organization.”
Although Clarke is himself black, he has also used racial slurs against black pundits who he disagrees with, once calling CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill a “jigaboo.” And he reportedly said on a conservative podcast, “Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle — because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt.”
I am tired of this jigaboo telling black people who they should be, what they should do. He's a lackey for Democrats https://t.co/XRI5bEPo0F— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) January 17, 2017
As a sheriff, Clarke has allowed some pretty horrific abuses to happen under his watch, including deaths at the jail he’s supposed to manage. In a particularly egregious case, jailers allowed a man with mental health problems to die of dehydration after allegedly cutting off the inmate’s water for a week.
Clarke, for his part, doesn’t seem to take his role as a jail supervisor too seriously. After facing questions over the deaths of three inmates and a baby at the jail between April and December of last year, Clarke essentially blamed the inmates for the deaths in an interview with the Wisconsin Watchdog:
Clarke said what the Journal Sentinel’s “hit job” missed is the fact that jail populations are filled with sick people who have made a lot of bad decisions that have compromised their health.
“Two inmates suffered from … cardiac disease, which became critical when coupled with the effects of hardcore drug usage prior to their incarceration, with their extensive drug histories independently noted in their death investigations,” he said.
Clarke also blamed the medical staff, which the county privately contracts with, and maybe the county executive — basically, everyone but him. “If there is a shortcoming here, people have to direct these questions at the medical staff,” he told Watchdog. “That [private] contract is run out of the House of Correction, and they report to the county executive.” (Never mind that, as Clarke admitted to Watchdog, he supported the privatization of the jail’s health care services and sought the contract. And it’s his staff who oversaw these people — including a baby — when they died.)
Clarke added that there’s no pattern or connection in the deaths. But as Nick Wing explained at HuffPost, the number of deaths is highly unusual: “Based on an analysis of The Huffington Post’s jail death database, other jails that have four deaths in a year are several times the size of Clarke’s downtown jail site, which has a capacity of 960. Even if no additional inmates die at Clarke’s jail this year, the facility’s death rate will be roughly three times the national average, according to 2013 figures.”
Most recently, Andrew Kaczynski, Christopher Massie, and Nathan McDermott at CNN also found evidence that Clarke plagiarized — or at least poorly attributed — parts of his 2013 master’s thesis on national security.
In terms of policy, Clarke is a run-of-the-mill “tough on crime” politician. He often defends mass incarceration, arguing that reducing prison sentences for low-level drug offenders is “cuddling up to criminals.” He has defended policing tactics like stop and frisk, which was deemed unconstitutional in New York City because it was deployed in a way that targeted minorities. He also talks tough about unauthorized immigration, regularly tweeting stories of crimes that allegedly involve undocumented immigrants and calling for a crackdown on them.
Those beliefs would make Clarke a good fit for the Trump administration, which has doubled down on 1980s-style “tough on crime” policies. But even though Clarke now may be looking for a job, the administration doesn't seem interested.