Updated August 26, 2016, 12:22 AM
BY JENNIFER FERMINO, GRAHAM RAYMAN, RICH SCHAPIRO
|Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has become a hero of the right for publicly taking on black activists. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)|
He’s slammed gun control supporters as "freedom-loathing gun-haters."
He’s labeled Attorney General Eric Holder an “a-----e.”
He’s ripped the Black Lives Matter movement as “Black lies Matter.”
But to the city’s largest police union, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is America’s finest lawman.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has named Clarke its person of the year — drawing fire from civil rights groups and other critics.
“I think of Mr. Clarke the same way I regard Bull Connor, the same kind of law enforcement officer who would sick fire hoses and dogs on elderly women,” said Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional director for the National Action Network.
“I think he has a disregard for people of color. He has allowed the power that comes with the badge or the gun to cloud his true mission or perspective. “
Marquez Claxton, a retired NYPD detective and former member of the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement group, called the PBA’s decision to honor Clarke “surprising and disturbing.”
The selection of Clarke represented a sharp turn from last year when Gov. Cuomo was honored as the PBA’s person of the year.
|Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch sang Clarke's praises. (James Keivom/New York Daily News|
The NYPD declined comment. The 60-year-old Clarke didn’t return a request for comment.
Clarke’s response to the violent protests in Milwaukee earlier this month cemented his standing as one of the nation’s most divisive law enforcement figures.
After protesters took to the streets following the police shooting of an armed black man, Clarke, who is black, blamed the unrest on “tribal violence.”
"What happened Saturday night and again Sunday night had little to do with police use of force — it was a collapse of the social order where tribal behavior leads to reacting to circumstances instead of waiting for facts to emerge," Clarke wrote in a column published in The Hill newspaper.
“The law of the jungle replaced the rule of law in Milwaukee Saturday night over an armed career criminal suspect who confronted police."
While Clarke’s political views have gained him a chorus of critics — including rapper Talib Kweli — his police bonafides are unassailable.
The cowboy hat-wearing Clarke spent 24 years at the Milwaukee Police Department, rising to the rank of commanding officer of the department’s intelligence division.
|Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks with David Clarke after a recent spate of violence against police. (ERIC THAYER/REUTERS)|
Since becoming sheriff of Milwaukee County in 2002, the 60-year-old lawman has won re-election three times — by margins exceeding 70%.
But even before he started sounding off on black protesters, Clarke’s office courted controversy.
In 2006, two sheriff’s deputies and their union successfully sued Clarke after he invited an evangelical Christian group to proselytize to a group of officers.
Clarke was found to have violated county procurement rules six years later when an audit revealed he used money from government seizures to buy workout equipment for his command staff.
Reached Thursday, Lynch sang Clarke’s praises.
"Sheriff Clarke is a passionate and vocal defender of police officers, at a time when our job is more difficult and dangerous than ever before,” Lynch said.
“That is exactly what the PBA does for New York City police officers, so it has been encouraging to hear Sheriff Clarke make the same case on a national stage. We should be hearing that type of support from elected leaders in both parties and at all levels of government."