A Wisconsin Sheriff is urging residents in his community to arm themselves, telling citizens that calling 911 is no longer their best option.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. has released a radio announcement urging citizens in his county to purchase a gun and take a firearms safety course. The announcement was aired at least once during WISN's Mark Belling show on Thursday, and was uploaded to the department's website on Friday. Fran McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Clarke, said she is not sure how many times the announcement will air and was unaware of how much the the 30 second announcement cost the department.
During the announcement, Clarke states:
"With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. We're partners now. Can I count on you?"
The Greenfield Police Department, which is in Milwaukee County, posted a statement on their Facebook page which said:
"Greenfield residents should know:
- No Greenfield officers have been laid off or furloughed.
- Violent crime is down overall and in Greenfield.
- Our response time to violent crime is less than two minutes.
- The decision to arm yourself with a firearm is a very personal and private decision that should not be driven by fear that our officers will not respond to your calls for help."
According to the Milwaukee Police Department's Facebook page, the department has actually increased the total number of officers in the department, graduating 65 new officers from the police academy on January 17, 2013. The department's website states there has been a 23 percent drop in all violent crime and an 18 percent drop in the cities murder rate.
Some are praising Clarke for speaking out, pointing out that law enforcement cannot be everywhere all the time. Others remind citizens that they have an obligation to protect their family and "defend them until help can arrive." One person points to the U.S. Constitution when saying:
"This is exactly what the framers had in mind with the Second Amendment. By being armed and proficient in the use of the weapon(s), you could provide for your safety and security."
Others are not pleased with Clarke's comments however, with some believing Clarke is insinuating that he and his department are no longer capable of protecting citizens in the county.
Milwaukee County resident, Jeri Bonavia, is one of those who feel Clark is saying he can no longer do his job. Her suggestion to Clarke is:
"If he truly feels as if he can’t do his job, he should step down."
Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy called Clarke's remarks "irresponsible" before saying:
"This type of strategy of telling citizens, and inferring that we've laid off police officers in the city of Milwaukee, is simply not the truth and it's wrong. We want citizens to be partners with us in fighting crime, but they should not be vigilantes."
Roy Felber, president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Association, agreed with Murphy's assessment, saying it appears as if Clarke is calling for vigilantism and that the reason society has police officers is for protection. Febler goes on to say that the money spent to produce the radio spot would have been better used to hire additional officers.
McLaughlin denies that Clarke is encouraging vigilantism or gun ownership, saying:
"His message says to consider taking a certified course. His message says to fight back to protect yourself. People need to decide for themselves if they want to own a firearm."
Neighboring Dodge County Sheriff, Todd Nehls, says he is a "huge supporter of the Second Amendment", and that many in his county own guns and know how to properly handle them. He goes on say that he would not consider running a similar announcement in his country because he believes it is his job and the job of his department to protect citizens in the event of an emergency. He continued telling WISN:
"In Dodge County, we are here for the people and we will be there for people when they dial 911."
A spokeswoman for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett issued a statement regarding the radio announcement which said:
"Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie."