Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sheriff David Clarke: The Warlord of Milwaukee County

Now that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County faces a possible federal felony conviction that would dislodge him from office, the floor is open for nominations to replace him as the preening figurehead for the Punitive Populist constituency. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who has been auditioning for that role over the past several years, is the prohibitive favorite for that position. 

Like Arpaio, Clarke is a part-time sheriff and full-time media whore, tirelessly seeking opportunities to favor Fox News viewers with a visage set in a sullen pout that he mistakes for an expression of Churchillian pugnacity. Where Arpaio advertised himself as the “World’s Toughest Sheriff,” Clarke has become the most visible exponent of the view that law enforcement officers should be provided with an institutional “safe space” befitting members of a specially protected class.

Perhaps the most remarkable facet of Clarke’s public persona is his studied rejection of the idea that sheriffs and other police officials should be peace officers. He espouses the view that law enforcement is a tribe that is at war not only with criminal offenders, but with its law-abiding critics. 

Clarke, an FBI-indoctrinated prohibitionist fanatic who was awarded a Master’s Degree in “Security Studies” through the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California, has issued an explicit demand for the suppression – and, if necessary, the “eradication” --  of Black Lives Matter activists and others giving voice to what he calls “anti-cop rhetoric.” Such people, he maintains, are “vulgar, vile, [and] vicious … slime” who should be characterized as “domestic terrorists.”

Following a prominent speaking role at the investiture of God-Emperor (in waiting) Donald Trump, Clarke published an essay urging the public and the political class to mobilize for a literal war of extermination – and insisting that citizens must rally to the defense and protection of the police officers whose advertised role is to protect them.

“It’s time to come to the aid of our police, our front-line soldiers, by calling this war, and not terrorism,” exhorted Clarke in an essay for The Hill. “Avoiding the truth through wordsmithing – the false narrative of the lone-wolf – is contemptible as more innocent officers perish while our politicians hem and haw. We as a people need to declare that we stand with the rule of law, and not with the false tales of the revolutionary Marxist forces, who most recently have rebranded themselves from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter.”

A poseur on horseback.
Those who refuse to enlist in that war are “accomplices” in league with “an enemy within our borders [and] without our borders,” Clarke insists.

“This slime needs to be eradicated from American society and American culture,” Clark insisted during an August 29, 2015 interview with Fox News host Jeanne Piro. While professing to “love the First Amendment” and “freedom of speech,” Clarke maintained that the right is “not absolute.” You can’t say anything you want in the United States. You cannot threaten people’s lives…. This is not First Amendment-protected.”

As he explained in the same interview, Clarke believes that the spectrum of impermissible speech may end with overt death threats, but it begins with the “disparagement” of police in social media.

It should be noted that as a Law-and-Order Leninist, Clarke does not object to insurrectionist speech or activism in principle: It’s all a question of who does what to whom. As Donald Trump’s presidential prospects have dimmed, Clarke’s ardor for order has waned, and his appetite for retaliatory violence has waxed. 

“It’s incredible that our institutions of gov[ernment], W[hite] H[ouse], Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch,” wrote Clark in an October 15 post on Twitter. “Pitchforks and torches time.” 

After successfully baiting media critics into condemning his hypocrisy, Clarke published an essay commending himself for emulating the courage of the Founding Fathers. Those men, Clarke apparently forgets, were disreputable radicals who opened fire on law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties on the morning of April 19, 1775, and whose revolutionary exemplars included a black felon named Crispus Attucks (he “stole” himself by escaping the custody of a man with a “lawful” claim to own him) who was killed while assaulting a law enforcement officer and trying to seize his firearm. 

Patriot martyr Crispus Attucks acted in self-defense, but his actions were an obvious threat to “officer safety.” If cornered and compelled to contemplate the matter at adequate length, Clarke might well dissolve into a puddle of cognitive dissonance. 

Yes, the sheriff professes to revere the colonial-era patriots, but he also subscribes to the “officer safety uber alles” dogma, under which the use of hostile language toward officers by a Mundane can justify the use of lethal force by the former. This was made clear in Clarke’s interview with Megyn Kelly in which he discussed the arrest and subsequent death in detention of Chicago activist Sandra Bland.

When Bland refused to put out the cigarette, Encina (who had previously been warned about “unprofessional” behavior) needlessly escalated the encounter, ordering her from the car, bellowing the incantation “I am giving you a lawful order,” then pulling a Taser and threatening to “light you up.” 

Bland’s violent arrest led to a three-day incarceration in the Waller County Jail that ended with a death that has been described as a suicide, despite a number of documented irregularities and derelictions on the part of the guards.
Asked by Kelly if he considered Trooper Encinia’s actions to be appropriate, Clarke said that he “wholeheartedly” supported the officer. This encounter, he continued, was a “classic case of a citizen who did not comply with an officer’s lawful commands.”

Although she was armed only with a lit cigarette – an object some exceptionally inventive police apologists describe as a dangerous weapon – and her own sense of self-ownership, Clarke described Bland as “loaded for bear from the time she was pulled over.”

“I expect an officer to go into arrest mode” in dealing with a citizen exhibiting such impudent self-possession in the presence of a uniformed overseer, Clarke told Kelly. “And once you go into arrest mode, you get to move up on the force continuum – it’s no longer verbal commands, you can use intermediate weapons. He chose a Taser.”

While the violence employed by Trooper Encinia was entirely appropriate, Clarke opined, “I was more appalled with the language [Bland] was using with an authority figure…. She did some things that caused an officer to move up in terms of his response to keep her safe and to keep himself safe.” (Emphasis added.)

Disdainful language hurled at “an authority figure” is to be treated as a “threat,” from Sheriff Clarke’s perspective – and a violent assault with a reliably lethal weapon by an officer on an unarmed woman suspected of a trivial traffic violation is merely a responsible exercise of that “authority.”

Trooper Encina was subsequently fired and charged with perjury for lying in the official report describing his assault on Bland. This would not change Clarke’s opinion of the ex-trooper and his conduct, given that the sheriff consistently condemns – on the basis of purely tribal considerations -- legal action against abusive law enforcement officers.

“I’m tired of qualifying these statements [by talking] about `bad apples’ within the law enforcement profession,” complained Clark in another Fox News appearance after a Texas prosecutor offered a fleeting acknowledgement that corrupt police officers exist. Clarke perceives law enforcement as an undifferentiated mass of heroic virtue – or at least he insists that the public should embrace that official fiction. 

It has been said that no honest cop ever struck it rich, and no wealthy cop could possibly be honest. (For the purposes of discussion, I will stipulate to the possibility that the words "honest" and "cop" can be used in proximity without violently annihilating themselves as if they were matter and anti-matter.) Clarke is a stranger to the penury that frequently is virtue’s unwelcome companion.

The Sheriff was given more than $9,000 in travel reimbursements to attend the annual Herb Allen & Company conference, a four-day gathering of moguls and media figures in Sun Valley, Idaho. In November, he was paid a $5,000 honorarium to offer a 48-minute presentation at the annual Restoration Weekend, a neocon assembly in Charleston, South Carolina. During that visit he was given nearly $3,000 in travel reimbursements, $1,212 for lodging, and almost $800 for meals. 

Clarke told the Journal-Sentinel that “I reported everything that I was required to report.” Milwaukee attorney Jeremy Levinson, who focuses on campaign finance and ethics issues, argues that “It looks like Clarke’s banking money he shouldn’t or is a part-time sheriff with a side job.” 

However, continued Levinson, the latter possibility “would require one to believe he’d get those lucrative speaking gigs and travel even if he weren’t an elected official.” 

Sheriff Clarke has been warmly embraced by a segment of the population that looks upon all government agencies and officials – except for the police and the military – with incurable suspicion and no small amount of hostility. This includes some people who really should know better:  Clarke was named 2013 “Sheriff of the Year” by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group that opposes federalization of law enforcement.
That honor is a dubious fit for someone who clearly sees himself as a warlord, rather than a peace officer.

                                        Introducing The Libertarian Institute

Some people I greatly respect and admire -- Scott Horton, Sheldon Richman, and Jared Labell -- have invited me to participate in the newly created Libertarian Institute as managing editor. They have done me a tremendous honor, and I am deeply grateful. Scott's radio program is a national treasure, Sheldon is a man of deep and expansive learning and wisdom, and Jared has been aptly described as a "force of nature in the freedom movement."

My essays and podcasts will be available at The Libertarian Institute's website, and will continue to appear here, as well. That site will also host a blog featuring the insights offered by dozens of the most perspicuous and principled people in the individualist movement.

Once again, I am honored to be part of this undertaking, and thankful to those who have found my work worthwhile. God bless you all.

This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast:

Dum spiro, pugno!