Sheriff faces criticism from opponents

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Chris Moews at a campaign fundraiser at Brocach Irish Pub. Photo by Brittany McGrail /

The race for the Milwaukee County Sheriff is picking up steam as two challengers prepare to take on incumbent David A. Clarke in the Sept. 14 primary elections.

Lieutenant Chris Moews and Officer Steven Duckhorn, both of the Milwaukee Police Department, are challenging Democrat Clarke for the position.

This July the Milwaukee County Democratic Party unanimously chose to endorse Moews instead of Clarke, who is seeking his third four-year term. Clarke was appointed Sheriff by Republican Gov. Scott McCallum in 2002, but ran as a Democrat both that year and in 2006.

Duckhorn is the only Republican candidate.

In spite of losing the endorsement, Clarke, 56, stresses his past performance and successes as basis for re-election.

“The sheriff’s results speak for themselves,” said Clarke’s Campaign Manager Chris Haworth.

According to Clarke’s website, crime decreased 10 percent last year, and he plans to continue that trend if re-elected.

“When I first ran for sheriff I said I would do two things,” Clarke said in a statement on his website. “First, my highest priority would be to make Milwaukee County a safer place for everyone, while keeping public safety affordable. Second, I said I would serve the interest of the people of Milwaukee County. I’ve done both.”

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke / Photo courtesy of Chris Haworth

Throughout the campaign both Duckhorn, 41, and Moews, 38, have been critical of Clarke’s leadership, saying his hard-lined approach has created a hostile environment that leaves employees afraid to express dissenting views.

“It’s time to change the culture of MPD,” said Duckhorn, who has been involved with law enforcement for 17 years.

Moews said that Clarke has lacked good judgment and fostered an environment where colleagues are afraid to give their advice.

“Right now the Sheriff’s Department is not fulfilling its obligations,” he said.

A 16-year veteran of law enforcement, Moews said that if elected he would try to foster greater participation from all levels.

Moews, who heads the Homicide Division at MPD, also underlined his ability to manage smaller budgets. He said that when he took over the division in 2008 it was spending more than $1 million in overtime budgeting, an amount he nearly halved in 2009.

“I have done phenomenally well at managing our resources and making sure we can do what we need,” he said.

Moews also highlighted the importance of both continuing and expanding prison reform programs. He said that local prisons with drug and alcohol programs and educational programs in place return less than one-third of inmates after being released.

Meanwhile, Duckhorn, who works on General Mitchell Airport’s task force, has emphasized heightening the airport’s security measures. Duckhorn said that through his experience on the task force he has had “a front row seat” to important practices that have been overlooked.

“I don’t want to see Mitchell become a serious terrorist consideration,” Duckhorn said, regarding the lack of officers at the airport. “If I start there that sends a message to Milwaukee that the sheriff is putting a nice perimeter on the town.”

The general sheriff’s elections will take place in November.

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