…Four people, including a newborn baby, have died at the Milwaukee County Jail since April. One man, a 38-year-old with mental health issues, died of “profound dehydration.” For a facility with a population cap of 960 that previously averaged a couple of deaths per year, the string of deaths is concerning.
[A court-appointed medical monitor, Dr. Ronald Shanksy, has interviewed staffers at the jail that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke runs.] During his visit, Shanksy said he was alarmed by the “extremely large number of vacancies” at the facility, particularly for medical positions.
“Questions certainly can be raised about the occurrence of these four recent deaths and the relationship to officer shortages … as well as the health care staffing vacancies and the adequacy of oversight of staff,” Shanksy wrote.
Now Clarke may be overseeing a much larger operation. Clarke was in New York City once again this week to meet with President-elect Donald Trump. He’s reportedly in the running to take over the Department of Homeland Security, and said he would accept a Trump cabinet position if asked.
Clarke’s national profile rose a few years ago when he began making regular appearances on Fox News in late 2014 to talk about policing after the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of Michael Brown. Since then, he’s made a name for himself by providing a voice for those who want to believe there’s nothing wrong with our criminal justice system and to ignore America’s historic racial inequalities.
Clarke, who grew up in a white neighborhood and attended a mostly white private high school, has said African Americans sell drugs “because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt.” He calls Black Lives Matter “Black Lies Matter” and compared them to the KKK. He once claimed that “police brutality ended in the 1960s.” Clarke made an appearance in July at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where RNC delegates gave him a standing ovation as he proclaimed “Blue Lives Matter” and celebrated the acquittal of a Baltimore officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray….
A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial said Clarke’s office had been “shamefully silent” about the deaths and hasn’t provided records regarding outside investigations that the county is legally required to have.
“Maybe Clarke thinks the peasants of Milwaukee County don’t need to know what’s happening at the jail. Maybe he’s hoping for a call from President-elect Donald Trump (for whom he campaigned so eagerly while people were dying in his jail) so that he can walk away from doing his job,” the editorial said. “Whatever his faulty reasoning, he’s wrong. Clarke owes the public answers about the deaths and about the state of inmate care at the jail. And the public deserves a sheriff who will do his job.”
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