An Open Letter to Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr.

David A. Clark, Jr., Sheriff
County of Milwaukee
821 West State Street, Room 107
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Dear Sheriff Clark:

WC saw your twitter post today, one that has been broadly circulated on the world wide web in recent days:


WC is also aware that as Sheriff of a Wisconsin County, you took an oath upon being elected, an oath mandated by the state constitution:1

I, the undersigned, who have been elected (or appointed) to the office of …., but have not yet entered upon the duties thereof, swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wisconsin, and will faithfully discharge the duties of said office to the best of my ability. So help me God.

There is a Code of Conduct imposed upon your Department. The link is on your Department’s website. It provides:

A police officer acts as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work within the law. The officer’s powers and duties are conferred by statute. The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property, protecting the innocent, keeping the peace and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.

And, just to clear up any uncertainty, the same Code of Conduct also provides:

Police officers will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to their agencies or themselves. A police officer’s character and conduct while off duty must always be exemplary, thus maintaining a position of respect in the community in which he or she lives and serves. The officer’s personal behavior must be beyond reproach.

Federal law makes it a crime to use any facility of the interstate commerce to incite a riot or to promote or encourage a riot. In fact, it’s a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Wisconsin law is much the same.

At a time when the nation is tense, worried and deeply divided, you have committed the irresponsible act of shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater. Your job is to protect the people; you have done exactly the opposite.

You have violated your oath, your Code of Conduct, and both federal and Wisconsin law. You should resign immediately. You should be indicted, but WC doubts that the administration of Governor Scott Walker has the the moral courage to prosecute you for a very serious crime.

And don’t give WC that First Amendment excuse. Read your own Code of Conduct. Even if you disavow that Code, incitement to riot is so far beyond protected speech that no court or jury will even listen.

WC looks forward to news of your immediate resignation.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Wickersham’s Conscience


  1. Wisconsin Statutes §19.01