The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) editorial board and writer Ernie Franzen, in an exercise in creative storytelling, are running interference once again for their favorite son Chris Abele. Their recent editorial (July 8, MJS print edition) is, as always, full of factual misstatements (lies is more accurate).
Editorial board member Ernie Franzen’s diatribe demonstrates how little he knows about public budgeting or law enforcement hiring. Government budgets are a list of priorities. County Executive Abele has said on more than one occasion that public safety is a high priority for him. My budget request is therefore in line with what Abele claims is a high priority. Now we will find out.
The Sheriff’s office has not hired a new deputy in ten years to right-size what I found to be an inefficient operation where multi-million dollar deficits were the norm. We have been able to stay within budget and in many of those years turned in a budget surplus. The MJS never took notice.
With Abele’s $16.5 million in draconian cuts that included eliminating positions and deputy layoffs over the last two years, my ranks are becoming dangerously thin. This is causing me to have to expend increasing amounts of overtime to get the work done. This model works for a while, but there is a point where we are burning people out to the point of fatigue setting in. When fatigue sets in for law enforcement officers, mistakes are made, people get hurt and God forbid, sometimes killed. It is human capital - deputies who serve domestic violence restraining orders and evictions; patrols on the interstate, parks and lakefront; SWAT call-ups; and that is just a fraction of what deputies actually handle.
When you hire a law enforcement officer today, he or she does not go out on patrol next week. The training academy lasts about six months, followed by a period of field training. Then there is a learning curve that only experience can provide. It can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months before an agency realizes the full potential of that officer. If we are dangerously thin now, it would be a dereliction of duty for me to not put forth a budget that strategically looks 18-24 months down the road in terms of hiring. Ernie Franzen obviously doesn’t know this. I don’t expect him to. I do expect him to rely on my experience at being a law enforcement executive. I am better at it than he is. Never will I put the safety of the people of Milwaukee County or the people in this organization in jeopardy because of some budget desire. I’m responsible for public safety in Milwaukee County, not Chris Abele.
Most of the venom that emanates from the MJS writers about me stems from the fact that they disagree with my politics when it comes to gun control, personal defense and criminal behavior. Their attitude is that since I’m black I’m supposed to be a liberal. Apparently the MJS writers and editorial board don’t tolerate views that differ from their own and have resorted to abusing their power of the press to punish me. It won’t work. A competition of ideas is healthy in a democracy.
Most (MJS) stories make it a point to refer to me as the "conservative sheriff" and point out that "he is supported by Republicans but runs as a Democrat," so as to chip away at cross-over support. Public safety transcends partisan politics. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, liberals, conservatives, males, females, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and faiths of all denominations can agree on one thing. They want a sheriff who stands on the side of law-abiding people, will protect them from the criminal element, and supports their right to defend themselves.
Franzen’s stereotyping on what it means to be a black conservative shows how narrow minded he is. It shows a total lack of understanding about black history or the black experience. He implies that I can only be one of two things in life, either a conservative or a free-spending liberal. In his world I can only be one or the other. I am more diverse than that intellectually and personally and won’t be placed onto a one-dimensional plane by the MJS.
Being a black conservative has little to do with political affiliation, nor is it membership in a club or political party. Franzen and his leftist cabal at MJS only see black conservatism in terms of economics. I see it as much more. It is a cultural mindset of self-determination, self-awareness, self-actualization and self-motivation. A conservative black’s overriding interest is in extending individual liberty and freedom outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Franzen forgets the long history in which freedom was denied to my ancestors, and that my parents grew up in an era when Jim Crow laws and discrimination were acceptable government policy.
Yes, Ernie, I am sensitive to threats to liberty and freedom in ways that you will never understand. I do not need to be lectured to by you in an editorial about what kind of conservative I am. I come from a history that knows what it is like to be deprived of basic freedoms and being told by people like you about what I can be in life, how I should think, what I can say and who I can associate with. Save it for somebody else.
The editorial by Ernie Franzen and the weekly inane stories about Sheriff Clarke are why the MJS is self-directing toward irrelevancy. People today have choices as to where to get real news from.
Clarke, a Democrat, is the elected sheriff of Milwaukee County.