Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lenient sentencing in OWI

Lenient sentencing in OWI cases has become a game of Russian roulette. Four- and five-time convicted drunk drivers are allowed back into the community, increasing the chance that they will kill someone when they next offend.

Last week, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge David Hansher sentenced an OWI-5th offender to a six-month “bed and breakfast” stay at the county correctional facility with release for 12 hours a day, six days a week. This comes on the heels of a lenient sentence handed down by him in February an OWI 4th offense within five years. In that case, he stayed a six-year prison sentence and ordered the man to serve one year at a county correctional facility with work-release privileges. It’s an act of judicial leniency he too often exhibits.

I've had it with judges like Judge Hansher who, by lenient sentencing of drunk drivers, place the safety of every motorist who drives on Milwaukee County roadways at high risk. These sentences are an abomination. Unfettered judicial discretion can act as legislative nullification.

Sensing public outrage, the Wisconsin state legislature worked to garner bipartisan support to strengthen the state’s attitude and law against this dangerous and deadly behavior. Wisconsin Act 100 makes a fourth conviction for driving impaired a felony punishable by up to six years in state prison. Unfortunately, judges were left with too much latitude in sentencing repeat drunk drivers. Many Milwaukee County circuit court judges lack the intestinal fortitude to go to the upper end of the sentencing guidelines, choosing instead the shallow end of the pool.

When Judge Hansher had a chance to protect us from four- and five-time drunk drivers, he instead gave defendants Cle A. Gray and Tom Burse safe harbor from prison. He figured these defendants deserved a fifth and sixth time second chance. We once again have to share the road with repeat impaired drivers wondering not if, but when, they will finally kill someone.

When I hear of an obscene sentence such as the one Judge Hansher gift wrapped for these impaired drivers convicted multiple times, other cases where judges have also exhibited extreme leniency come to mind. I think of Linda Chambers. Her father was killed by a three-time drunk-driver, who then received a six-month “bed and breakfast” stay in our Franklin correctional facility. Percy Chambers was killed several weeks before his daughter’s wedding. Then there’s Paul and Judy Jenkins. Their pregnant daughter, Jennifer Bukosky, and granddaughter, were killed by a three-time impaired driver who, after conviction, was allowed time to “get his affairs in order” before reporting to serve his sentence. And Nancy Sellars, who was killed by a repeat drunk-driver while riding her bike.

I have met the survivors who continue to live with the pain, as they wonder why the courts didn’t protect their loved ones when they had a chance to do so. I doubt that Judge Hansher has personally met the victims outside a courtroom like I have, because if he had, it would change forever his indifferent attitude about the one-sided justice heavily favoring drunk and impaired drivers.

I am again calling on the state legislature to enact stiff mandatory sentences for repeat drunk drivers. Too many judges have acted irresponsibly with the discretion we have granted them. When an offender is convicted for a fourth or fifth time, you have to ask why they are not sent to prison to serve a lengthy sentence, instead of the County Correctional Facility. Cle A. Gray and Tom Burse sleep in the jail at night, are fed breakfast, and then are released to mingle about law abiding society during the day.

In addition to ensuring justice, Judge Hansher has a duty and an obligation to protect the rest of us from impaired and repeat drunk drivers. As I’ve said many times, anyone who would choose to drink and drive after being convicted of drunk driving is not merely a nuisance; he’s a deadly threat to the public. It’s obvious to everyone except Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge David Hansher. I want to remind him that it’s not justice until society’s needs are met. His version of justice is a potentially lethal game of chance – which endangers the public by making them potential victims of a drunk driver.

David A. Clarke Jr.
Milwaukee County

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sheriff Clarke Weighs in on Milwaukee Public Schools Take Over

Reducing Crime, Violence, Disproportionate Black Incarceration Rates and Prison/Jail Overcrowding Through Education Reform of MPS

Q: Why as a top law enforcement official have you continually been outspoken on the failure of K-12 public education in Milwaukee?

For the seven years that I have been Sheriff of Milwaukee County, I have been outspoken on the research-proven nexus between school failure, violent crime and criminal behavior; between school failure and disproportionate minority incarceration rates; and between school failure and jail and prison overcrowding. The connection is clear and that’s why I have had from day one a sense of urgency about the need to fundamentally improve K-12 public education in Milwaukee—and that means Milwaukee Public Schools.

If we’re ever going to solve the problems of poverty, crime, violence, disproportionate minority incarceration rates and jail and prison overcrowding, no remedy is more important than dramatically improving MPS.

Q: The latest idea of education reform for Milwaukee Public Schools is mayoral control. Talk about that.

Unfortunately, K-12 public education in America has always been politicized. I want to remind politicians and special interests that children are not mere pawns of the state to be used to achieve some political end. Parents alone should decide how and where their kids are educated, not the government. The proper role of government in education is to provide the funds for this to happen, set some basic standards and then get out of the way. The government monopoly of K-12 public education in our urban centers today is a big part of the problem. Competition encourages innovation and serves as an incentive to succeed.

I’m suspect about the timing of Governor Doyle and Mayor Barrett’s announcement for structural reform at MPS. Doyle has been governor for seven years and only now on his way out the door does he see a need to get involved in the affairs at MPS. When did he get this moment of sudden intuitive understanding? Up until now, other than the occasional “we have to improve education” statement from his office, he’s been missing in action. I find his sudden concern to be disingenuous. He certainly wasn’t thinking about parents, kids and taxpayers when his last budget eliminated the Qualified Economic Offer aspect of collective bargaining, which kept costs under control. WEAC has been trying to get him to do this since he became governor and in politics timing is everything so this must have been a going away present to the teaching establishment who have a vested interest in protecting the status quo. This is where his allegiance lies. Currently, college is out of the reach of an increasing number of Americans. Eliminating the QEO is going to put K-12 education out of the reach of taxpayers.

As for Mayor Barrett’s interest in taking control of MPS, I find it peculiar that for the six years he’s been chief executive of the city and as MPS continued to fall further into an abyss of failure he too demonstrated no sense of urgency other than the occasional statement of “concern” about what was occurring. Most big city mayors who have pushed for mayoral control of schools have done so immediately after taking office and usually ran for office on the issue, sending a signal that it was one of their top priorities. Mayor Barrett introduced the issue when he first ran for mayor in 2003, and when he got considerable blowback quickly abandoned the issue. He lacked the will to take the political risk in trying to get elected and let over five years of school failure go by before wanting to try it again.

Q: What then do you believe is behind their sudden press for reform?

I’ll tell you what the incentive is. As the old saying goes, when politicians are calling for action all you have to do is follow the money. In this case it’s the $4.3 billion being made available to states under President Obama’s Race to the Topeducation initiative. States that enact reform measures will qualify for education grants. It’s a money grab, an additional funding source to cover expanding school spending that the state and local budgets cannot afford. These two obviously believe that we can spend our way to excellence in education. History and research show otherwise.

Both have talked about the need to change the school funding formula but have stayed away from the benefit ratio problem where most of the money spent on education (nearly 70%) goes to salaries, benefits and pensions and very little actually reaches the classroom. Doyle and Barrett remain silent when this financial issue comes up.

Q: Why is Mayor Barrett’s call for mayoral takeover meeting with such resistance and do you favor a change in governance over MPS?

First of all what I favor doesn’t matter. I’ve looked at both sides, the pros and cons of mayoral control, and I’ll talk about that later. As to why the Doyle/Barrett idea has met with so much resistance--just look at how it was presented. These guys did not thoroughly think this thing through. They’ve offered no comprehensive plan in support of this change effort. A plan is a diagrammed method of proceeding. In other words where are we going, how are we going to get there, and when there, what are we going to do? Barrett has offered a few abstract concepts but no method of proceeding. They obviously did not take the time to meet with the competing constituencies that have a vested interest in this issue in order to garner support before proceeding.

Yes, I know, he formed a dreaded committee. There are several sayings about committees. When you want to stop progress from happening, form a committee. Another, and my favorite, is that a committee is a group of the unwilling, chosen from the unfit, to do the unnecessary. Does the mayor know where the common council collectively stands on this issue? What about the Milwaukee area state legislative delegation? Or Milwaukee’s minority community? Or the teachers union? Right now there are factions of these groups that are going to try to stop this. Why do their concerns have to be assuaged? Because any one of these groups can stop this from happening.

Q: Why is it important to have these groups on board?

Because to try to force this change on the opponents of mayoral takeover by ramming it through is going to leave some large constituency group or groups feeling resentful, angry, and left out, and potentially widen the racial divide that already exists in Milwaukee. That works if you have all the leverage to make it happen. The mayor doesn’t have all the leverage here. We’re not talking about some small change idea; this is monumental. We’ve seen this before from this mayor. Remember his grand announcement that the city would be wired for Wi-Fi? It never happened and the project eventually was scrapped. Remember his announcement that the Pabst City project would start? That too was defeated. We’ve seen this before where Mayor Barrett throws out a grand idea that may have merit but he did so unprepared.

Change creates anxiety. You have to spoon-feed people change of this magnitude at a rate that they can handle. You must take the time to lay the groundwork, prepare people and address their concerns and calm their fears about what you’re about to do.

Will changing the governance structure at MPS really make a difference?

Not necessarily. This is where too many people are missing the boat. Everybody is talking about this as if once a mayor takes over, magically kids from distressed families will become academically inclined and begin to excel. It’s important to point out that who should govern MPS only deals with the structural issue. It’s a technical fix. It provides the framework for meaningful change to occur inside the classroom. Technical fixes applied to a problem that requires an adaptive fix will only lead to short term miniscule results. The more important issue is the reform needed operationally. That’s adaptive change and will require a change in the way MPS currently behaves.

This is at the heart of why I say that Mayor Barrett and Governor Doyle didn’t think this thing through. They did not present a comprehensive plan, a method of proceeding with this proposed takeover along with a vision for what MPS will look like and in what time frame it will occur, as did the mayors in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. Where is the written plan that people can examine? Barrett and Doyle basically threw a match down on a dry field. Some quickly heaped praise on these two and called it bold leadership. Starting a brush fire isn’t leadership. Having a plan to put out the fire and control the emotional backlash so that rational discussion can occur is an act of leadership. By not taking their time and being more prepared they currently have lost control of the issue.

Q: In your opinion which of these operational aspects is the most critical?

Without a doubt increasing parental involvement.

Q: Why?

Because if the parents don’t care, their kids won’t care. If education is not revered inside the home, it’s impossible for kids to place much value in it. In the average 2009 SAT scores by race and ethnicity black student scores again were the lowest, behind Whites, Asians, American Indians, and Hispanics and the achievement gap continues to widen. Asian-American students had the most dramatic gains in all categories and at all income levels (throwing that lame poverty excuse out the window). The college board officials who run the exam believe that the gains by Asian-American students are because they tend to take more Advanced Placement and other rigorous courses and their families place a strong value on success in education. That’s a cultural difference that simply turning control of the schools over to the mayor is not going to solve.

How is Mayor Barrett going to change the culture in black central city homes as to education? With slogans and rhetoric? I want to hear this one. This is the adaptive change I talked about earlier. This is the hard part. Choosing the next superintendent is the easy part.

Talk more about the operational changes needed at MPS.

I’m talking about implementing meaningful instructional changes in schools and classrooms. How do we dramatically improve student achievement, increase school attendance and parental involvement, and raise reading, math and science scores? I haven’t heard the mayor call for the end to policies like social promotion, or push for year-round school for MPS or an immediate end to busing. Does he support closing failing schools, strengthening the curriculum, merit pay for teachers, expanding vouchers and making it easier to open charter schools? Will he insist that MPS be broken up into smaller districts?

Why wasn’t Barrett outspoken against Doyle’s removing of the QEO for teacher bargaining so he could keep costs under control. How is he going to keep it under control now? Or will he keep raising fees like he does now and say it’s for the kids? Does he favor ending residency for teachers to allow teachers from outside the district to apply for positions? How can we know if we have the best teachers for Milwaukee’s kids unless we expand the pool?

If we don’t fundamentally change the way schools operate it won’t matter whether the mayor or school board chooses the next superintendent. People have a right and a need to know before turning over another billion-dollar corporation to the mayor, where Barrett stands on these issues and how he’s going to make changes. Again, he hasn’t presented a plan other than to want to choose the next superintendent. Heck, that’s the easy part, the ribbon cutting part.

Q: The School Board has recently put forth a plan for reform. What are your thoughts on their proposals?

Are you kidding me? They have presided over this train wreck. MPS has been in decline for several decades and the school board has stood by with the proverbial deer in the headlights stare. They acted as if they were powerless to do anything about it and now they have ideas? Their constant internal bickering has allowed the status quo to remain. This is the group that in spite of things getting worse saw fit to retain Superintendent Andrekopoulos for as long as they did. Their thinking was for more consistency in the position. They got consistency all right, consistent underperformance. Corporate boards of directors would have asked any CEO reporting the kind of dismal data he did on reading achievement scores and graduation rates to resign. Instead the school board gave the CEO of MPS extensions on his contract and a raise. They didn’t want to hold him accountable for results. And now they have ideas?

Everybody seems to be in agreement that we need to do something with MPS. Do you agree?

No, I don’t and let me explain. We shouldn’t just do something, it’s more important to do something meaningful. Many elected officials who have been interviewed have in fact responded, “We have to do something!” Geez, what a brilliant statement. Just doing something can be dangerous if you have no idea what the end result will be. We’re only going to get one chance to get this right. If I break my leg obviously something has to be done. To treat my broken leg by removing my spleen is in fact doing something but it’s not meaningful. It was Hippocrates, the father of medicine, who said in helping “at least do no harm.” Oftentimes just doing something without first thinking it through can make it worse. That’s my fear here because the mayor has no plan and if he claims to have one he hasn’t communicated it to the rest of us.

You indicated earlier that you’re neutral on mayoral control. Why, and why are the advocates so optimistic about mayoral control?

I have my doubts as to whether the city of Milwaukee is equipped with the structure or leadership for mayoral control. What kind of restrictions or oversight will we have? That’s the thing that leads me to believe that the mayor and his committee have not researched this nor have they thought this through. If they had they would know how mayoral control is working out in other cities. It is not clear-cut that mayoral control has been the reason for what little progress has been made. In fact in some cities mayoral takeover has failed to make a difference. My advice is for proponents to curb their enthusiasm and examine the data.

The mayor believes this is making a difference in other cities. The empirical data says otherwise. Mayoral control of K-12 schools started up again in 1991, and so there exist fifteen years of data for us to analyze about the optimistic predictions of supporters and how successful this has been in raising academic excellence. I’m not saying that mayoral control is the wrong way to go, all I’m saying is that people smarter than me are raising questions about the effectiveness of national education reform efforts including mayoral control. It’s why I cringe when I hear people say, “We have to do something and I say no; we have to do something meaningful.” Let’s look before we leap.

Q: What does the data indicate?

Well, in Boston after ten years of mayoral control, student scores in the “needs improvement and warning/failure” category of standardized testing are twice as high as the statewide rate across all grades and the minority achievement gap still continues to widen. This is after ten-years! The story in Chicago is similar where after six years of incremental test score improvement under mayoral control, student achievement test scores began flattening with decline starting in 2001. In ten years only 42% of students scored at or above the national norms in standardized reading tests. This is only a 1% gain a year in ten years.

Mayor Barrett talks about the rise in reading scores and achievement gap improvement in New York public schools. He doesn’t tell you the entire story however, only that which fits his agenda. Here’s the rest of the story. Test scores are up. Which scores though? On state tests scores are up. New York schools however are being accused of dumbing down tests, making it easier to demonstrate “annual yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. How do we know? On the federal government’s gold standard test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), results of city schools have been flat in the seven years the mayor has had control. Scores on the SAT have declined in this time period and graduation rates have been inflated. Additionally three quarters of public school grads attending community college require remediation classes.

The average increase in school spending under Mayor Blumberg has increased to $21 million per year compared to $13 million before he took over. I don’t want MPS to look like New York Public schools, do you? Mayoral involvement hasn’t been a complete failure but is that improvement good enough? Not by my standards. Again it’s important for me to say that I’m not arguing against mayoral control; I just don’t have on rose-colored glasses when looking at the issue. I’m just citing the data.

Q: What’s the upside to a mayoral takeover?

I’ve taken an in-depth noncommittal look into the issue. First of all the growing popularity of mayoral control is nothing new. I found it interesting to learn that what led to independently elected school boards in the first place was corrupt use of mayoral power over education. It’s legitimate to ask if we are headed down that road again. The research says that mayoral control allows citizens to hold the chief executive of a city accountable for the school system’s result rather than the disparate collection of low profile school board members. The problem with this argument according to the same researchers is that most people do not base their vote for mayor solely on the performance of the school system. Voters tend to be more interested in how quickly potholes are filled, or about snow removal and garbage collection.

The second upside is that mayoral control produces a policy environment that is more conducive to dramatic reform. There is a difference however between quick reform and meaningful reform.

Q: What then are the downsides to abolishing elected school boards?

The researchers say this is where the racial divide occurs because abolishing school boards runs the risk of marginalizing communities that historically have less political clout. MPS is predominately attended by minority students. When community control is taken away through mayoral takeover, minorities begin to feel that the decision-making authority affects them the most. Mayoral takeover also shuts off a pipeline that historically has proven to be a vital means for minority citizens to enter public office. I read where 22% of black and 35% of all Latino elected officials nationally are school board members. This is why we’re getting resistance from black residents about this move. They feel they’re being squeezed out of the political process.

There is no way Barrett or Doyle gave this consideration and it’s why again I say they didn’t think this through. If they want to claim they considered this, then shame on them. I don’t call these issues racist like School Board President Michael Bonds did, but it is insensitive if they did give this consideration. Bonds lashed out and reached for the word that blacks know will get people’s attention, the “R” word. It was irresponsible though.

Q: What are the other issues across all demographics for abolishing the school board?

Researchers say that the school board remains a substantive venue for parents to have their voices heard. Trying to get through all the clutter at city hall is difficult. The average person can’t get the mayor on the phone directly whereas they usually can reach their school board representative directly. Additionally, a local board is the only mechanism that provides a direct point of entry for parents to express their concerns about education to the very officials who make education policy, in other words more community control.

Researchers also believe that school boards divided into sub-districts instead of the whole city have members that are more likely to understand how citizen issues and concerns with a particular school varies across neighborhoods, allowing board members to adopt nuanced policies that reflect district by district variation. The last two points are that mayors are inclined to push sweeping policy changes that take little account of vastly different needs across schools, a one-size-fits-all approach. I talked about the potential for corruption and the thought here too is that the wrong mayor may be tempted to politicize the schools in self-serving ways.

Q: Are you confident that in the end they’ll get this right?

We have to. I’m out of jail space.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sheriff Clarke Supports Business Partnerships in Public Safety Messages

Milwaukee, WI - On the day the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office issued Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle charges against a woman for killing a motorcyclist, CBS58 aired a news story questioning a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office motorcycle safety public service announcement designed to prevent such a tragedy. The irony is too great to ignore.

Unfortunately, this story highlights what passes for “news” today and while I certainly encourage scrutiny of the actions of public officials when warranted, I believe the station in this situation would add public value by placing more emphasis on the preventable injury and killing of too many motorcyclists and other motorists on the roadways in our community. Possessing an FCC license to be on the television airways comes with a responsibility. Local TV news has an obligation to add value to the lives of not only its viewers but to the community as well.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, June 27, 54-year-old Robert Perkins was simply riding his motorcycle on US45 at Mayfair Road. Without warning, a car slammed into his bike. Upon impact, Mr. Perkins was thrown over the median wall where he fell more than 100 feet to his untimely, tragic and violent death. This was avoidable.

Several months ago a drunk driver was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing a Michigan motorcyclist who was here for the 105th Harley-Davidson celebration. While this may be “old news” to CBS58, it will not be forgotten by us.

CBS58’s airtime would add more value if they spent the time (dedicated to the ad) airing an interview of Robert Perkins’ surviving children. Every day, responsible stations weigh the pros and cons and debate the merit of the stories they air. An interview with the cyclist’s grieving survivors meets a basic litmus test even to a novice like me. I bet most people who saw the CBS58 story cannot even name the law firm that sponsored the safety message.

The facts surrounding the safety message are these: In an attempt to prevent such tragedies, Tony “Pan” Sanfelipo., the founder of ABATE (a motorcycle safety group) asked me to help them promote motorcycle safety awareness. Johnson’s employer, Hupy and Abraham would pay for the announcement. In light of the deaths that already occurred following the warm weather, I welcomed the opportunity. Furthermore, as Milwaukee County faces financial constraints, I opted not to use taxpayer money even though it would have been appropriate to do so.
Instead, I chose to look for innovative ways to pay for these expensive safety messages. As a result, I can then take that money (let’s say a primetime P.S.A. costs $10,000) and put 25 officers on the street for additional enforcement efforts. In law enforcement, it’s called partnering with the business community.

It has always been my belief that local businesses have a responsibility to be good corporate neighbors and give back to the communities they operate in. That’s what responsible and creative public stewards do -- work with people. It’s called making taxpayer money go farther to improve public safety. I’m always in support of any public service effort that, in my opinion, promotes a legitimate public safety issue. My job is to do everything I can to keep the citizens of this county as safe.

I’ll ask CBS58 to sponsor a :30 ad on roadway safety and let you know what their response is.

And no, I wasn’t paid for the public service announcement.

Stay Safe,

Sheriff Clarke
Milwaukee County

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Racial Profiling: Junk Science and the ACLU

The state legislature is once again addressing the issue of data collection by law enforcement agencies, this time as a condition of making seat belt use a primary violation where police can stop a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt. Currently this is a secondary violation where another violation must be first observed. This issue is once again being exploited by the race hustlers as nothing more than a means for cops to stop and harass minority drivers. The race baiters who view everything through the prism of race don’t see it as having anything to do with safety even though fatality and injury data prove otherwise.

Yes, they’re at it again. The cop-bashing organization known as the American Civil Liberties Union is doing what they do best. They indict law enforcement officers and sue their agencies whenever they can for whatever they can. Their mission claims to promote the civil rights of all Wisconsin residents, except for police officers, who they readily and without empirical evidence, accuse of being racist in performance of their duties.

I am referring to the anti-cop crusade waged incessantly by the ACLU on this nebulous issue of hard “racial profiling.” Unable to come up with scientific evidence that would prove this claim, they rely on junk science that simply looks at raw numbers of the race of drivers in traffic stops, compare it to the population as a whole and conclude that this is proof positive that too many black motorists are being stopped. They never have to answer the question, “Too many; compared to what?” But then again who needs scientific research? It’s easier to just throw this accusation at the police as if it were some sort of sport. Most law enforcement agencies won’t fight back anyway because of the legal advice to fold their cards. The ACLU sees them as low-hanging fruit.

Most city and county legal counsel just want the issue to quickly go away. Problem is that the issue of profiling never does. It’s easier to have law enforcement agencies just fall on the sword, settle lawsuits and succumb to the political correctness of expensive consent decrees, committees on diversity, and onerous data collection that is then used to club them over the head. Admitting that one is racist, even if not true, in a warped way demonstrates to those who have an agenda, that one’s apology is sincere and that they are ready to begin ridding themselves of their “sin.”

The ACLU knows that nothing will ever eliminate the belief by some black motorists that they are routinely pulled over simply for being black, not for a traffic violation, and therefore this destructive campaign against law enforcement can be waged forever. For the police-agitating ACLU it is the gift that keeps on giving. This cop-agitating organization has no interest in “ending racial profiling.” Most police agencies have done everything they have been asked to do by the anti-profiling advocates, but none of it has done anything to appease them. Agencies have conducted sensitivity training and initiated written polices prohibiting this obnoxious behavior, all at a cost to them, and it still hasn’t been enough.

I say enough is enough. As a law enforcement executive it’s my responsibility to monitor the activity of my officers to ensure compliance. If a complaint of hard profiling is made, I aggressively investigate it. If a pattern exists and an objective observer, not a politically motivated one, determines that action is needed, I’ll take it. If it turns out to be a misunderstanding by the driver about the nature of police work, I’ll take the time to educate the motorist. If it turns out to be a lie though I’ll ask for prosecution or seek a civil remedy.
Traffic stop data by itself is meaningless but it is politically explosive and that’s what Mr. Ahmuty knows. He and his cop-agitating organization have no interest in having the data scientifically analyzed and sophisticated benchmarks set, because every time this has been done it has disproved this claim as nothing more than myth. Nobody doubts that a few racist cops do exist and that they do engage in isolated instances of profiling for the wrong reasons. There is no empirical evidence however to prove that law enforcement agencies engage in systematic racial profiling as a practice.

If the ACLU were sincere in its mission to end hard racial profiling they would demonstrate it by digging into its own coffers to pay for the collection of data. They want everyone else to do the heavy lifting of paying for data collection. Apparently ending hard profiling isn’t important enough for them to finance the collection of data. They want the municipal corporations to pay for it. Mr. Ahmuty has even identified government resources that should be used to pay for it. How considerate of him to help. What a great idea Ahmuty proposes. We pay the cost for him to then sift through the raw data, misapply it in some flawed fashion and then use it as a weapon to accuse us of “racial profiling.” Why didn’t I think of that?

I don’t want funds designed for making communities safe used for this witch-hunt. If the state wants to pay for it, fine. I don’t want this paid for on the backs of property tax payers. I’m all for the collection of data if and only if an independent research firm, not the State Department of Justice, is allowed to analyze the data in a legitimately scientific way, one that has no hidden agenda and is skilled in this type of research so that we can give the ACLU’s poisonous agenda on hard profiling a proper burial.

Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Evaluates House of Correction Takeover

This month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a look at how the House of Correction was faring under Sheriff Clarke's management. Read the report here.

Should law enforcement officers be able to stop you for not wearing a seatbelt?

The Wisconsin legislature is debating that issue right now. Hear what Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke thinks. He discussed it with on WTMJ radio Friday morning.

Click below to listen:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Summary of Sheriff's Remarks to Joint Finance Committee

On Tuesday, March 25, I had the privilege of addressing the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee public hearing on the budget held at Wisconsin State Fair Park. I addressed the committee on the lack of wisdom in Governor Doyle’s proposal for early release of “non-violent” state prison inmates in an effort to save money. It’s ironic that in 1998, then attorney general Jim Doyle was against early release when the State Department of Corrections director at the time, Walter Dickey, advanced the idea.

I was given three minutes to make my point. I asked the committee to remove this proposal from the budget and to make it a separate issue so that a more comprehensive discussion can be had for a long-term strategy on corrections for the state of Wisconsin. Nothing as monumental as the reform needed in corrections can be articulated in three minutes, which is why this needs to be a separate matter from the budget.

Not many people would disagree that we need comprehensive reform in the State Department of Corrections. We need a plan that is less costly and at the same time does not put the safety of law-abiding people and communities at risk, which I believe the Governor and Secretary Raemisch’s proposal would do. This proposal is inconsiderate of what it will add to public safety spending at the local level. It’s one-dimensional and short term. Milwaukee County is not prepared for the influx of recently released state prison inmates back into our neighborhoods. No community has the money or the resources.

I told the committee that I wanted to dispel the myth of “non-violent” offenders being in the state prison system. According to the U.S. Dept of Justice study of prison populations, it shows that the overwhelming majority of inmates in state prison systems are locked up for a conviction of a violent felony. It also reveals that inmates locked up for drug offenses are mainly dealers who are members of notorious street gangs.

A report from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute titled, “Who Really Goes to Prison in Wisconsin?” reveals that 94% of Wisconsin prison inmates are currently locked up for a conviction of a violent felony or have an arrest for a violent felony in their criminal history. My fear is that when the governor and DOC secretary realize that there are not enough “non-violent” offenders to release to meet their arrived-at budget number, the standard will be lowered as to who should be released. It’s bait and switch.

We’re not talking about second chances here. We don’t send people to prison for misdemeanors or failure to pay fines. Prison is Wisconsin’s costliest and harshest consequence. Other than when a person commits a crime such as murder or rape, our prisons are filled with people who are career criminals and have been given repeated chances to reform. Society simply got tired of their repeated abhorrent behavior. They have been sent to every program available to assist them, but criminal activity has become such an ingrained behavior that society had no recourse but to separate them from law-abiding people.

What makes the Governor and Rick Raemisch naïve enough to believe that these hardened criminals will now respond to treatment or sanctions? This is foolhardy. How can they ignore the data from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute that indicated that 90%, (yes, 90%) of the inmates in their study who were released from prison ended up being rearrested? Simply thinking happy thoughts is not comprehensive reform.

The $27 million that the governor says can be saved by releasing inmates early is the amount of health care expenditure for prison inmates. The trade-off for not having to pay for inmate healthcare will be in the form of more misery at the local level, more people victimized, more drug wars and users, more homes broken into, more cars stolen, more arsons, more property stolen, more money needed to hire police officers and higher cost for housing inmates in local jails that we thought we had already gotten rid of, even at least for awhile. Every day that a career criminal spends behind bars is another day that he cannot commit more crime. Property crimes are not irrelevant. Unleashing these recidivists back into local neighborhoods is too high a price to pay for budget convenience.

Real comprehensive corrections reform must include a discussion about privatizing the state’s prison system. Currently, 38 states have privatized all or part of their prison system. The highest expenditure in corrections is not the housing of inmates; it’s state employee (prison guards) costs, wages, healthcare and pension contributions. We must also discuss a return to our policy of housing state inmates in out-of-state facilities. State DOC saved $44.5 million between 1999 and 2002 by housing inmates out of state until Governor Doyle ended the program and returned over 4,000 prison inmates back into an already overcrowded state prison system. Revising Department of Corrections regulations would reduce costs as well.

I was asked by a member of the committee if I supported the suggestion made by some of raising taxes to deal with rising corrections costs. I told him that that was a discussion for another day. My position is that I am not for raising taxes for anything. State government needs to prioritize and realize that it cannot be all things to all people. This is what leads to rising state spending. State government needs to realize that its most elementary job is to secure the personal safety of citizens. They should fund public works projects, such as road building and maintenance, and fund education--and I don’t mean more spending on the UW system either. Every community does not need a UW extension. Funding pet causes by raising taxes should cease. Even on vices such as cigarettes and alcohol.

Another committee member asked if I supported treatment and diversion programs. I said, “maybe.” We have to rid ourselves of the fairytale that every inmate can be rehabilitated. It is not true. We need to be more realistic about who we spend our limited resources on. Some people are hell bent on doing wrong no matter how hard we try to save them. You can’t save people from themselves. I told her that more effective parenting, more intact families, and more respect for the value of an education would prevent young people from engaging in criminality as a lifestyle. It’s too late once they end up in prison.

I think you can see that real corrections reform leading to efficiencies and long-term solutions cannot be accomplished as a budget item.