By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Feb 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM

I just read a news release from Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines' office, blasting Sheriff David Clarke's "decision to assign sheriffs deputies to provide only partial security" for President Obama's Milwaukee visit today.

Joining in the criticism is County Board Chairman Lee Holloway. Hines called the Sheriff's decision "appalling."

"I believe the unprecedented decision by Sheriff Clarke is clearly an attempt to put politics ahead of duty, and ahead of the Sheriff's sworn commitment to provide security and safety for a visiting dignitary of the highest order -- our Commander In Chief," Hines said.

"The Sheriff obviously cares little about that sworn commitment, and is focused instead on scoring some temporary political points with a portion of his constituency."

Holloway said, "It's the Sheriff's sworn duty to provide adequate protection for all citizens, including dignitaries that visit our community. I'm concerned that Sheriff Clarke is providing less protection to our current President than he has for previous Presidents."

"I'm really disappointed that the Sheriff is playing heavy politics with security for dignitaries. I really thought more of the Sheriff, and I hope that he adds additional security both today and in future presidential visits," Holloway said.

Well, this is weird.

I haven't heard Clarke's side of the argument, but I'm pretty sure Obama is covered with ample security during this trip to Milwaukee. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be here.


Hines said the sheriff's "embarrassing" decision will make it easier for those who believe there is a need to seriously study a metro police department (for all of Milwaukee County) that removes the elected, political element from the Sheriff's Office. "I promise that I will be a part of that effort, so that we do not repeat this type of deplorable and disrespectful action toward a visiting President again," he said.

Maybe, but the infighting between city and county, especially when it comes to law enforcement, is embarrassing. And this snippiness is especially embarrassing, since it's the kind of stuff that makes national news.

How about we put politics aside and protect our president, whoever he is? And, if he's already amply protected, we pass on the opportunity for a politically motivated media spectacle?

Someone – and I'm not sure who, nor do I even especially care – should be ashamed of himself.

Update: Sheriff Clarke's office just sent out a release. You be the judge:

Milwaukee, WI – While it is generally not an accepted practice to discuss the planning and execution of dignitary protection, today's media discourse necessitates a response. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office participated in dignitary protection planning with the Secret Service, State Patrol and other local agencies well in advance of the president's visit to Milwaukee today. SWAT teams, K9 sweeps and motorcade/mobile aspects of security remain in place, particularly at General Mitchell International Airport.

The county budget forced the State Patrol to step in to handle the manpower needed for the large number of ramp closures along the freeway route, a function that has always been handled by MCSO. County Executive Chris Abele's budget specifically removed the substantial funding for dignitary protection in 2012. The County Board of Supervisors approved these cuts, against the advice of Sheriff Clarke.

Typically, the Sheriff's Office has budgeted a set amount for dignitary protection each year, based on experience. In presidential election years, that amount is increased. The county executive and county board decided to eliminate the funding entirely. They now seek to distance themselves from their ill planning.

County Executive Abele's budget specified that dignitary protection is "not a core service and can be provided by municipalities." Despite that, the Sheriff's Office continues to provide the necessary security, as determined by planning with the Secret Service, to ensure the safety of the president.

Another update, this time a release from Supervisor Eyon Biddle, Sr.

"I am disgusted that Sheriff Clarke has chosen to put his personal ideology ahead of his responsibility to protect and serve.  Public safety should be his number one priority, rather than spewing political rhetoric and building his local profile as a conservative ideologue.  Sheriff Clarke is an embarrassment to Milwaukee County.  He has attacked the County Board, the County Executive, our Judicial Branch, and anyone who disagrees with his narrow-minded viewpoint.  Now, he’s using his dissatisfaction over budget cuts to disrespect the Office of the President.

"The budget fight is over, Sheriff.  It ended in November.  Perhaps you haven’t noticed.  The fight you should be having is with the Governor and Legislature responsible for these devastating cuts.  Let me be clear.  In the age of dwindling revenue, few officials enjoy dealing with budget cuts.  Many of my colleagues and I disagreed with the vast majority of the cuts made within Milwaukee County, including the cuts to the Sheriff’s Department.  In fact, I went to Madison to fight these cuts.  Sheriff Clarke, I don’t recall seeing you join the fight for Milwaukee County.  I do, however, remember that you traveled to Madison to testify in favor of the Concealed Carry legislation.

"This is a clear case of misplaced priorities.  Instead of working to secure precious resources for law enforcement, you grandstand for concealed carry and other pet projects.  The President of the United States came to Milwaukee County; you’re supposed to provide adequate protection for him.  Perhaps if you stop cozying up to Mark Belling, Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner long enough, you can get back to your priorities as the Sheriff of this County.  Conservative talk radio doesn’t pay your salary.  The taxpayers of Milwaukee County pay you to administer law enforcement services.  You are not paid for grandstanding and political posturing at every opportunity.  You are not paid to stomp your feet like a child when you don’t get your way.  I don’t see other respected law enforcement leaders, such as Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, acting this way.  Maybe the Office of the Sheriff should be changed to an appointed, rather than elected, position.

"Sheriff, I call on you to take a page out of your own DOTS program and MAN UP!"

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.