David Clarke, the tough-talking, cowboy hat-wearing sheriff of Milwaukee County, will join the Department of Homeland Security next month, he said Wednesday in a radio interview.
Clarke told WISN he's joining the Department of Homeland Security to work as a liaison between the federal government and local law enforcement. Those problems were highlighted last month during an inquest into the April 2016 death of Thomas, who went seven days without water because of blunders by jail staff. But the death happened under his leadership, which his critics said was sufficient cause for Clarke to be fired. "That's important here", Clarke said.
Clarke would also be leaving office with several pending lawsuits against him, including one filed by Thomas' relatives.
The sheriff, a conservative firebrand and long-time source of controversy in Wisconsin, rose to national prominence more recently as an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump and his name had consistently been discussed as a potential homeland security official for the new administration.
So far, DHS isn't confirming Clarke's appointment.
The arch-reactionary sheriff earned the adoration of police officers across the USA for his "Blue Lives Matter" speech at last year's Republican National Convention, where he invoked Martin Luther King, Jr. while advocating for the granting of unlimited impunity to the police.
Clarke's brazenness and tendency to fire-off provocative, off-hand comments have contributed to his rise as one of Wisconsin's most controversial political figures. During one of those clashes in 2013, Clarke insulted Abele saying he had "penis envy".
An immigrant-advocacy group, Voces de la Frontera, expressed concern about the sheriff's announcement, calling him "unfit for any office" in a statement.
Since the inauguration, Clarke has drawn protests in Milwaukee for taking steps to allow corrections officers to conduct immigration enforcement in his jails. Prior to his appointment, Clarke vowed to turn his department into a deportation-oriented agency where hundreds of officers would be trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the goal of detaining undocumented workers.
Clarke said he would have a "steep learning curve" in his new job, but added that his experience in local government would be an asset.
"We have not yet received a resignation letter from Sheriff Clarke".
In explaining the appointment process, Walker's office did not offer congratulations or any reaction to Clarke's news.