A planned appearance by Trump Administration ally and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. will draw a protest from local advocacy groups. Clarke is set to speak at 11 A.M. tomorrow at the Albany Capital Center. The event is closed to the press and the public.
Jamaica Miles of progressive advocacy group Citizen Action NY circulated a petition this week asking the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police (NYSACOP) to withdraw its invitation to Clarke to speak at its 2018 Annual Law Enforcement Vendor Exposition.
Miles said she felt “shock and disgust” when she saw Clarke would be coming to Albany. But she said she wanted to start by “at least asking if they would rescind the invite.”
The NYSACOP is a conservative membership organization and does not represent all police chiefs in the state.
Clarke is scheduled to speak on an array of topics, including law enforcement’s role in responding to protests, homeland security, and criminal justice reform.
Part of Miles’ letter directly addresses Clarke’s agenda:
“According to the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police website, Sheriff Clarke[‘s] speech topics include, ‘the preparedness of law enforcement in political protests and riots, and the impact of criminal justice reform in an era that has seen the rise of domestic political extremism including from groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter.’
“David Clarke completely ignores the reality that the perpetrators of violent extremism in the United States include white supremacists; anti-government groups; groups with extreme views on abortion and federal ownership of public lands. Most of the terrorist attacks carried out in the United States are committed by white far-right violent extremists.”
Clarke is an outspoken critic of Black Lives Matter and a frequent guest on Fox News. He’s compared BLM to the KKK. His tenure as Milwaukee Sheriff was marred by a number of inmate deaths. Pregnant inmates were shackled while they gave birth, one woman successfully sued the County saying she had been raped by a jail guard.
Miles says she sent her petition to NYSACOP but has not heard back. NYSACOP president Chief Michael Lefancheck told The Niagara Gazette that criticism is designed to quash free speech. “We shouldn’t be stifling free speech, whether we agree with it or we don’t agree with it,” he was quoted as saying.
Miles’ petition currently has nearly 4,000 signatures–including those of local elected officials including Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Albany Common Council President Corey Ellis and Albany County Legislators Merton Simpson, Jr., Douglas Bullock, Lynne Lekakis, Andrew Joyce, Joanne Cunningham, and Victoria Plotsky.
Clarke’s appearance came to many people’s attention after gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon tweeted that “Clarke shouldn’t be given a platform to peddle hate and conspiracies here in New York.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Andrew Cuomo told The Niagara Gazette that the governor thinks NSACPOP should “reconsider” Clarke’s invitation. “We believe his message is wrong, divisive and against the values that New York was founded upon,” read the statement from Rich Azzopardi.
“We’ve done so much in the Capital District on policing issues. There has been so much action on community policing especially in marginalized communities,” said Miles. “To bring in someone opposed to this kind of policy is insulting. I don’t know anyone in law enforcement who thinks we should be heading in his [Clarke’s] direction.”
Here is Miles’ full letter to NYSACOP:
To Chief Michael Lefancheck,
We are disgusted and outraged to learn that David Clarke, the highly controversial former Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin from 2002 to 2017 will be the keynote speaker at your May 9th 2018 Law Enforcement Vendor Exposition of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police at the Albany Capital Center. We write today as a united voice of leaders from the Capital District and across the state, and call on you to immediately rescind the invitation.
According to the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police website, Sheriff Clarke[‘s] speech topics include, “the preparedness of law enforcement in political protests and riots, and the impact of criminal justice reform in an era that has seen the rise of domestic political extremism including from groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter.”
David Clarke completely ignores the reality that the perpetrators of violent extremism in the United States include white supremacists; anti-government groups; groups with extreme views on abortion and federal ownership of public lands. Most of the terrorist attacks carried out in the United States are committed by white far-right violent extremists.
According to the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), there were 85 violent extremist attacks in the fifteen years following 9/11. Sixty-two of these were by far right extremists. None were by Black Lives Matter because Black Lives Matter is not an extremist or violent organization. Clarke’s focus on Black Lives Matter is dangerously misplaced. It is part of a false narrative that people who protest against police killings of unarmed black people are a threat. New York’s Chiefs of Police should be meeting to discuss how to lessen hostility between police and communities of color. Instead, by inviting Clarke, NYSCOP is inflaming tensions between police and communities and encouraging more hostility by police forces.
Sheriff’s Clarke’s divisive and extreme racist rhetoric and actions are offensive and morally reprehensible. His extreme prejudiced views are not only unwelcome in New York, they pose a danger to New York residents by misinforming law enforcement of the real threats to our society.
Community groups and political leaders in New York are actively working to end mass incarceration by exposing the injustices and inequities in our criminal justice system. Sheriff Clarke on the other hand, talks about the “myth” of mass incarceration and he advocates for harsher sentencing for small amounts of drug sales. While he was Sheriff in Wisconsin he cut all programs like GED in his jails. New York’s law enforcement leaders should not be taking directives from Clarke’s reckless beliefs.
It is unacceptable to promote former Sheriff David Clarke as a role model or expert for law enforcement to emulate or initiate policy or practice, the opposite is true. The City of Albany and New York State are no place for his bigoted vitriol. Again, we call on you to rescind the invitation immediately and denounce his hateful, dangerous positions against the people you are supposed to serve.
The above letter comes from faith leaders, community leaders, organizations and elected officials including but not limited to: Citizen Action of New York, Albany NAACP, BLM Hudson Valley, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration, Centro Civico, Albany Behavioral Health Services, A Village Inc., Center for Law and Justice, Barbara Smith, Dr. Alice Green, Hon. Vickie Smith, Damonni Farley, Rabbi Matthew Cutler, Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara, Albany Common Council President Corey Ellis, Albany Common Council Members Joyce Love and Kelly Kimbrough; Albany County Legislators Merton Simpson, Jr., Doublas Bullock, Lynne Lekakis, Andrew Joyce, Joanne Cunningham, and Victoria Plotsky