Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has a problem: People just seem to keep dying in his jail. But to hear him tell it, everybody is to blame — except Clarke himself. And while Clarke favors the death penalty for people who kill police officers, he refuses to take any responsibility whatsoever when law enforcement personnel, specifically his, unjustifiably kill people, even as calls mount for his resignation.
As the Huffington Post reported, four people have died in custody in Clarke’s jail since April, including two inmates with medical emergencies, a man with mental-health issues who succumbed to “profound dehydration” and a baby who died following the ignored repeated requests of a detained pregnant woman in labor. Based on an independent investigation, the deaths were likely caused by delays in access to care, personnel shortages and a lack of staff oversight.
Noting not only the number of deaths but the “egregious nature” of those deaths, Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore has called for an investigation of the jail, as TMJ4.com reported. “I became increasingly concerned that there was no one minding the store, so to speak,” Rep. Moore said in a letter to the Justice Department, characterizing the jail as “an unsafe environment” for inmates.
In addition, Milwaukee County supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde has called for Clarke’s resignation. The official said that accountability starts at the top and Clarke has abdicated his responsibility and failed to conduct investigations or maintain an environment of professionalism. “Something is terribly wrong at the Milwaukee County Jail, and Sheriff David Clarke needs to resign before more people die,” Omokunde said in a statement, as reported by Fox6now.com. “The simple fact that four deaths have occurred in a six-month period under his watch demonstrates that Sheriff David Clarke is unfit to manage the Milwaukee County Jail.” Omokunde noted that, while at least three of the deaths were due to the actions or inaction of Clarke’s corrections officers, no officers have been disciplined and Clarke has remained silent.
“Supervisor who?” Clarke responded in a statement. “That sounds like some character in a science-fiction comic book and he’s upset that I helped Donald J. Trump get elected POTUS.”
Brian Peterson, the Milwaukee chief medical examiner, said the sheriff “verbally pummeled” and “threatened” him after Peterson publicized the deaths of two of the inmates. One of those included the dehydration death of Terrill Thomas, 38, which Peterson ruled a homicide because the corrections officer turned off the inmate’s water faucet. Clarke accused the medical examiner of “political activism,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Clarke told the Wisconsin Watchdog that the Journal Sentinel performed a “political hit job” on him by painting him as a heartless warden responsible for four deaths over six months. Clarke pointed the finger at the privately contracted health care staff. “If there is a shortcoming here, people have to direct these questions at the medical staff,” Clarke told the Wisconsin Watchdog. “That [private] contract is run out of the House of Correction and they report to the county executive.”
Clarke defended himself by claiming jails are filled with sick people who have jeopardized their own health through the bad decisions they make. “Two inmates suffered from severe 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 told the Wisconsin Watchdog.
A speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Clarke is a tough-on-crime law enforcement official who believes in law and order, including the death penalty for people convicted of killing police officers.
Known for his attacks on Black Lives Matter, Sheriff Clarke does not believe that police brutality exists but rather that there is a war on cops.
As Mother Jones reported, in his upcoming memoir, Clarke advocates the suspension of constitutional rights for any U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism — as well as their supporters — and treating them as enemy combatants, i.e., holding them without an attorney in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, indefinitely. His plan is to arrest and detain 1 million people in the U.S. prison.