By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Apr 16, 2015 at 5:30 AM

He wears a cowboy hat and rides a horse and is the absolute darling of the far right wing political caverns in this country.

He is the go-to guy when a cable news network (mainly Fox) needs a black guy who is also a law enforcement official to comment after a particularly  horrid shooting takes place and people are talking about more gun control. He makes no bones about being the darling of the National Rifle Association.

And Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who is almost surely going to run for mayor of Milwaukee in less than a year, has been the subject of plenty of criticism from me.

I called him Tuesday to talk about the incredible epidemic of violence in the black community in Milwaukee. If you follow the news you know that it seems like a big part of this city is spinning out of control. Murders this year are up more than 100 percent over the same time last year. It seems like almost every day there are bullets flying somewhere, most often in black neighborhoods. 

I have never been afraid to walk in any area of this city, but that has changed. I now would be fearful to walk around in some neighborhoods. 

A conversation with Clarke is an interesting way to pass time. He has all the code words down cold. Many times he sounds almost as if he’s some kind of tool for most strident and crazed groups in this country.

But I came away from talking to him – an event that I wasn’t even sure would happen – with a small part of me nodding my head about some of the stuff he says.

"The black community is in tatters," he said. He blames all the usual suspects like welfare, bad schools, drug and alcohol abuse, absent fathers and no opportunity for so many black people and what he calls "dependence on Uncle Sam." We may debate the causes, but the conclusion is inescapable that the black community is, indeed, in tatters.

Clarke is quick to act as critic of Mayor Tom Barrett, police Chief Edward Flynn, President Barack Obama, County Executive Chris Abele or just about anyone who is to the left of Attila the Hun.

I pointed out to him that in this day and age it’s not enough to just be a critic. He’s got to be part of the solution.

"I worry that all black people get painted as violent," he said. "It’s really a sub-culture. It’s the black underclass. They have no fear of anything."

OK, sheriff, but what are we going to do about this before it swallows the city we all love?

"The criminal element doesn’t have any fear that if they drive around and see a house and light it up that they are going to get caught," he said. "If three felons are driving around with weapons they don’t have any fear that they might get pulled over and searched. They need to have some fear."

Clarke understands that the disintegration of the black family has been a driving force in the creation of this subculture of violence. And while he critical of Flynn he admits Flynn "doesn’t have the horses to get the job done."

"Cops just run from incident to incident, putting out one fire after the other," Clarke said. "There aren’t enough police to even try to establish a relationship with a neighborhood."

Clarke clearly believes that more police would act as a deterrent force to some of this violence. I tend to think that he might be on to something, but I doubt that the city would be either willing or able to hire enough police to make the kind of difference we all want.

I think being a cop must be one of the most difficult jobs in Milwaukee right now. Clarke agrees that it is a job in which fear is a big factor. Can you imagine going to work, wondering if you might get shot during your shift?

I want to make it clear that I totally disagree with Clarke regarding gun ownership.

When the two people were murdered last weekend after a fatal traffic accident, Barrett said the murders were "assassinations."

"Black lives matter," Barrett said.

Of course black lives matter, but slogans are not what this city needs now. This is a time for Barrett to step up to the plate, to get other leaders activated to do something about all of this.

This week, on April 14, we celebrated "Milwaukee Day," an artificial holiday created to highlight the city with the 414 area code. I can’t imagine really celebrating when so much of this city is mired in the horrors that have turned a big chunk of land into a battlefield.

If Barrett can’t do anything about this message from Clarke, as bizarre as it often is, it may well resonate for voters in less than a year.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.