The Sock Puppet Cometh

Since his ascension to Milwaukee County Sheriff via appointment by then Gov. Scott McCallum, David Clarke, Jr. has never been afraid of controversy. 

The leaders of the sheriff’s rank-and-file union bristle at Clarke’s no-holds barred management style. Critics also claim that the sheriff is by no means a consensus builder. Yet one thing is certain: very few Milwaukee County residents can claim that they are unsure where the sheriff stands on issues of public safety.

In addition, it is no secret that Sheriff Clarke and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett mix like oil-and-water. The personalities of these two leaders, their political philosophies, and their management styles are the antithesis of each other.

Clarke, an African-American, is a law-and-order conservative; Barrett, who is white, is a touchy-feely liberal.

The mayor believes in leading by consensus, while the sheriff’s inspiration is Rudy Giuliani’s take the bull-by-the-horns style of leadership.

Barrett’s critics claim he is virtually invisible when it comes to critical issues facing the city. One of the mayor’s critics, WTMJ talk-radio host Charlie Sykes, notes that Barrett’s mug might appear on the side of a milk carton—a reference to a missing person. Clarke, on the other hand, is hands-on, very passionate about his public policy positions, and flamboyant in public. He is, on occasion, observed in cowboy garb while visiting Mitchell International Airport.

In the middle is Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, a relative newcomer to executive office. A trust fund baby, Abele lacks any meaningful administrative experience, which, his critics argue, makes him little more than a sock puppet for Mayor Barrett.

One need not scratch too far below the surface to unravel the Barrett-Abele conspiracy to defund the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office.

By state law, Sheriff Clarke is a constitutionally elected official.  In other words, unless the Barrett-Abele axis can defeat Clarke in an election, there’s not much Milwaukee’s liberal leaders can do to run the sheriff out of town. Instead, the county executive and the mayor have taken a different approach: minimizing Clarke’s ability to lead by gutting the sheriff’s budget.

Last year, Abele’s county budget resulted in significant layoffs of Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies, some of whom had nearly a decade on the job. This stab at Clarke reduced jail staffing to dangerous levels while using dedicated law enforcement professionals as pawns in a political power play.

The latest Machiavellian maneuver from the Barrett-Abele axis guts the sheriff’s budget by another $3.3 million by transferring patrols of the county parks from the sheriff’s department to local municipalities. The political scam, though, is in the details. Over $1.7 million—about 93 percent of the money dispatched to municipal law enforcement agencies to patrol the county parks in their jurisdictions—goes to one agency: the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD). This even though the vast majority of county park real estate is outside the Milwaukee city limits. Suburban law enforcement agencies would each receive, on average, about $7,000 apiece.

Talk to law enforcement veterans from Milwaukee County and, almost to a person, they chuckle when asked about MPD becoming the county park police.

“Besides county parks, there are also city parks in Milwaukee, where Milwaukee police are currently assigned,” said one former MPD veteran. “What kind of patrols do these city parks receive? No more attention than any other block in any squad area. As such, one can see where this is going. Barrett and Flynn will take the $1.7 million paid by Milwaukee County taxpayers, including those living in the suburbs, to off-set the MPD’s budget, while doing little, besides patrolling the Lake Park and Bradford Beach areas.”

Suburban Milwaukee County taxpayers should voice outrage by Chris Abele’s sloppy wet kiss to Tom Barrett’s city budget. This deal is so bad that the term ‘sock puppet’ is too flattering a reference to Abele, although the other euphemisms offered by some former coppers to address the specifics of the Barrett-Abele political relationship are not fit for print.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit


© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012


4 Responses

  1. Glenn Frankovis

    Milwaukee PD can’t handle the volume of calls for service now as evidenced by the priority Dispatch policy and well documented cases in which people have complained about waiting long periods of time for such incidents as burglary and even robbery. There was a time when I would have been comfortable with MPD handling the parks, like we did years ago, but that was when District Captains had alot more latitude in where and how to deploy their resources. That fell by the wayside prior to Flynn’s arrival and he hasn’t done much, if anything, to improve that problem. Still, the age old problem of City cops enforcing County Ordinances will need to be resolved if this proposal is approved.

    Clarke’s method of dealing with the Lakefront problems was to swarm the area with Deputies and summarily arrest violators. That is the only way the thug problem can be handled. He was able to do that on a consistent basis. I suspect MPD will use the extra money to assign Officers to the Lakefront on an overtime basis. The key will be how many and what the policing strategy will be – hard line, summary arrests for violations or scarecrow tactics. The real test will come around Memorial Day next year.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm

  2. Emil

    The Milwaukee liberals can’t stand Clarke. The Democrat Party has no room for a black politician who rejects the mindset of the masters on the liberal plantation. Clarke is not exactly admired by those who work for him though. He reminds me of Sheriff Joe in Arizona. Barrett dislikes Clarke because unlike the mayor Clarke actually has ideas and stands for something besides just going along to get along.

    September 30, 2012 at 12:53 am

  3. Ray

    Is it true that Captain Mike Enters in the novel about the Milwaukee Police called “The Cozen Protocol” is a spoof of David Clarke?

    September 30, 2012 at 12:58 am

  4. Steve Spingola


    There is much speculation about who the actual characters in The Cozen Protocol actually are. Having worked for the Milwaukee Police Dept. for 30-years, I have a pretty good idea about who two or three of the characters might be in real life. For example, the talk-radio show host Jack Plankinton sounds alot like Mark Belling. I know Glenn Frankovis, who has reviewed the book and commented on this particular post, believes Plankinton is a knock-off of Belling. The police chief in the book, Jim Grayson, seems like a combination of Phil Arreola and Arthur Jones. The Mike Enters character is one that might be at least three different former commanders. I’ve spoken to a half-dozen people who claim Enters sounds alot like Clarke; however, I’ve also know other retired MPD-types who think Enters represents others that they’ve worked for.

    September 30, 2012 at 1:16 am

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