Policy

Controversial Sheriff Says He’s Taking Homeland Security Post

‘It’s going to be a huge learning curve for me’

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke appears on stage of the Quicken Loans Arena after speaking on first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, said Wednesday he’s taking a job at the Homeland Security Department.

Clarke, whose name has been previously floated for administration jobs, told WISN-AM that he’s taking a job at DHS that involves liaising with state and local law enforcement agencies. The post does not require Senate confirmation.

“It’s going to be a huge learning curve for me. I’m going to get in there and figure out the landscape; learn the people,” Clarke told the Wisconsin radio station, according to a transcript posted online. “I’ll be developing who I have interplay with.”

He went on to say he’d talk to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to “figure out a strategy to create this better liaison between the Department of Homeland Security and our state and local partners.”

The White House referred questions about the appointment to DHS. Jenny Burke, an agency spokeswoman, said the position “is a Secretarial appointment,” adding that “such senior positions are announced by the Department when made official by the Secretary. No such announcement with regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.”

Clarke is a controversial figure who has faced criticism for his leadership in Wisconsin. He is a strong supporter of Trump’s policies on immigration and critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Earlier this month a grand jury recommended criminal charges against several Milwaukee County jail officials after an inmate in their custody died of dehydration last year.

Terrill Thomas, 38, died in April 2016 in a jail overseen by Clarke after being denied water for a week as a form of punishment. Clarke himself was not a target of the inquiry.

The Office of State and Local Law Enforcement at DHS is the primary point of contact between the department and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in preparing and protecting against natural disasters as well as counter-terrorism efforts. The office, which currently does not have a permanent leader, is part of the Office of Partnership and Engagement that is led by acting Assistant Secretary John Barsa.

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