“Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie.” That was the response from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s office upon hearing the sheriff’s latest public service announcement. In fact, Milwaukee County Sheriff Clarke’s message is so radical that it almost doesn’t seem legit. But it is, and it has some Milwaukee officials (and citizens) horrified:
In his latest radio spot, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. tells residents personal safety isn’t a spectator sport anymore, and “I need you in the game.”
“With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” Clarke intones.
“You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back.”
Clarke urges listeners to take a firearm safety course and handle a firearm “so you can defend yourself until we get there.”
“You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”
Click here to listen Sheriff Clarke’s public service announcement in its entirety.
Roy Felber, president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, said the ad sounded to him like a call to vigilantism.
“That doesn’t sound smart,” Felber said. “That’s why society has police officers.”
Instead of promoting vigilantism, Felber said, money should be found to hire more police officers and deputies.
Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, said she hears “over and over” from most law enforcement officials that the community should work to “take more guns off the streets, not add more.”
“What (Clarke’s) talking about is this amped up version of vigilantism,” Bonavia said. “I don’t know what his motivations are for doing this. But I do know what he’s calling for is dangerous and irresponsible and he should be out there saying this is a mistake.”
Sheriff Clarke’s radio spot already aired on Mark Belling’s radio show on Thursday, and it was posted to the department website today, according to Sheriff Clarke’s spokeswoman.
She said she did not know where else or how often the spot would be broadcast, or how much the department spent to air it.
County Executive Chris Abele summed up the situation best:
“I think it’s irresponsible and it doesn’t help public safety to tell the public there’s some kind of imminent danger that they need to go buy guns,” Abele said. “Essentially, you’ve got a (public service announcement) that’s recommending people need to go buy guns because they can’t rely on the response they’ll get from 911. I’m here to tell you, we have phenomenal police departments.”