The first to be recognized by Urban Operator as one of America's Heroes of Law & Order, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is known as The People's Sheriff. This is his biography.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is a law enforcement executive with 38-plus years of experience. His public service career began in 1978, at the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), where he served 24 distinguished years. During his eleven years as a Patrol Officer, he received meritorious citations for felony arrests. In 1989, he was promoted to Detective, and nine months later was selected for the specialized Homicide Division, where he was part of a team that investigated more than 400 homicides in a four-year period. MPD made arrests in more than 80% of homicides, well above the national average of 60%.
Clarke was promoted in 1992, to Lieutenant of Detectives and was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Bureau as Shift Commander of the Crimes Against Property Division, the Violent Crimes Unit, and again to the Homicide Division. In 1996, he was promoted to MPD’s command staff as Captain of Police, and soon became Commander of the Department's First District, located in Milwaukee’s downtown business and entertainment center.
In 1999, Clarke became Commanding Officer of MPD’s Intelligence Division which was responsible for producing and sharing intelligence, and providing dignitary protection in conjunction with the Secret Service, the Department of State, and other federal agencies. He served as MPD’s liaison with the United States Attorney’s Office as coordinator of the CEASEFIRE violent crime reduction program, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs Service, Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In November 2002, he was elected to his first four-year term as Sheriff of Milwaukee County, earning 64% of the vote. Sheriff Clarke is now in his fourth term, having been re-elected in November 2006, 2010, and 2014, increasing his victory margins to 73%, 74% and 79% respectively.
Clarke graduated summa cum laude from Concordia University Wisconsin with a degree in Criminal Justice Management, and in May 2003, Concordia honored him with their Alumnus of the Year Award. Sheriff Clarke is a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. This prestigious school trains law enforcement executives from all over the world and provides management and leadership instruction. In July 2004, he completed an intensive three-week Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government, at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
In October 2004, Sheriff Clarke participated in the 80-hour Executive Development Program of the National Sheriffs’ Institute, sponsored by the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Institute of Corrections in Colorado. Clarke returned to Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in April 2005, to complete the week-long executive education program entitled, “Driving Government Performance: Leadership Strategies That Produce Results.”
Sheriff Clarke was nominated in 2005, to the FBI’s 28th Annual National Executive Institute, a world-renowned leadership development forum for law enforcement executives conducted by recognized experts in leadership, media, ethics, international policies, intelligence-led policing, homeland security, and social, political and economic trends. The forums were conducted in weeklong cycles in Quantico, Gettysburg, and Ottawa.
In 2009, Sheriff Clarke met with Police Chief William Bratton and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to study their operations in Los Angeles. Of special concentration were LAPD’s CompStat system, a crime control and analysis model; and LASD’s detention services, large jail management, and emergency management operations. He met again with Commissioner Bratton in March 2015, and surveyed NYPD intelligence and counterterrorism operations.
In October 2009, Sheriff Clarke was honored to receive the Americanism Award from the Milwaukee County War Memorial Veterans Board of Directors at their annual awards ceremony. The board, consisting of 22 veteran organizations, historically has awarded civic leaders and community volunteers, and not elected officials. However, board members said they chose to recognize Sheriff Clarke in “appreciation for his version of law and order.”
Sheriff Clarke, along with a dozen American police chiefs and sheriffs, traveled to Israel in April 2011, on a week-long law enforcement executive training mission sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation. They exchanged best practices in areas including airport security, intelligence analysis and sharing, public spaces security, bomb disposal, border security, incident and media management, the psychology of terror, and terror financing.
Sheriff Clarke was honored in May 2013, with the Sheriff of the Year Award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association for “demonstrating true leadership and courage. . . staying true to his oath, true to his badge, and true to the people he has promised to serve and protect.”
In September 2013, after completing a rigorous master’s degree program, Sheriff Clarke received an M.A. in Security Studies from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security, in Monterey, California. The competitive 18-month program included 12 weeks of in-residence study, course work, on-line study and the completion of a thesis. As a postgraduate student, Clarke collaborated with national security officials on current policy, strategy and organizational design challenges in security studies, homeland security and defense. His thesis analyzed the need to balance domestic intelligence operations, with protection of privacy and civil liberties.
In February 2015, the Conservative Political Action Conference presented Sheriff Clarke with the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award. CPAC only presents the award in years when it deems it is merited, to an individual “who stands up for their principles, even when doing so puts them at risk physically, politically, or economically.”
At the request of committee chairmen, Sheriff Clarke testified in January 2015 at the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General, and at a hearing in May 2015 of the House Committee on the Judiciary regarding “Policing Strategies for the 21st Century.”
In November 2015, Sheriff Clarke was presented with the Annie Taylor Award from the David Horowitz Freedom Center for “Daring the Odds.” The award is named for Annie Edson Taylor, who was a 63-year-old schoolteacher in 1901, when she became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. The Annie Taylor Award is given to people who exhibit great courage by “going over the ledge when others would be afraid to even go near it.”
2016 awards include: Law Enforcement Leader of the Year from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; New Jersey Blue NOW Magazine for Sheriff Clarke’s “leadership and support to our nation’s law enforcement community;” Sheriff Buford Pusser National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year; New York Oath Keepers Leadership Award; and New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Person of the Year.
Sheriff Clarke is a frequent guest commentator for national news services and organizations regarding law enforcement, Second Amendment, and homeland security issues, and has been interviewed by: CBS Evening News, CNN (CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin and Poppy Harlow, Michael Smerconish, Don Lemon and Erin Burnett OutFront), Fox News (Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Megyn Kelly, Bill O’Reilly, Neil Cavuto, Uma Pemmaraju), Fox Business (Lou Dobbs and Charles Payne), Glenn Beck, National Public Radio, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, Washington Examiner, Politico.com, Al Jazeera America, National Rifle Association, NRA News, The Heritage Foundation, Conservative Political Action Conference, National Review (cover story), Sheriff, America’s 1st Freedom (cover story), and Concealed Carry. The Sheriff hosts “The People’s Sheriff,” a weekly one-hour podcast on The Blaze Radio Network.
Sheriff Clarke is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Jail Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, Badger State Sheriff’s Association, Milwaukee County Law Enforcement Executives Association, and the National Sheriffs’ Association, serving on its Legal Affairs Committee.
He is an Honorary Chair of the Milwaukee Fellowship Open, a member of the Law Enforcement Assistance and Outreach Committees of the National Rifle Association, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Past board memberships include the Three Harbors Council Boy Scouts of America, Milwaukee Tennis & Education Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and the American Red Cross in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Sheriff Clarke is a lifelong resident of the City of Milwaukee. A Marquette University High School graduate, he was a proud member of the varsity basketball team that won the state private school championship in 1973. Sheriff Clarke and his wife Julie Clarke, a Realtor, live in the home they built on the northwest side of Milwaukee.