In this Oct. 11, 2012
file photo, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke talks during a budget
hearing in Milwaukee, Wis. The Wisconsin sheriff said he released an ad
calling on residents to defend themselves because the old model of having a
citizen call 911 and wait for help isn’t always the best option. (AP)
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. has a
message for residents: learn how to use a gun.
With budget cutbacks putting a strain on law
enforcement, simply calling 911 might not cut it in a life-or-death or
situation, Clarke said in a new
radio ad this month. Safety is “no longer a spectator sport,” he says.
“I need you in the game.”
“With officers laid off and furloughed,
simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” Clark adds.
“You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can
fight back. But are you prepared?”
“Consider taking a certified safety course in
handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a
duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on
you?” he asks.
The spot has quickly
earned criticism, including from the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association
and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association
president Roy Felber told the Associated Press it sounds like a call to
vigilantism, while Barrett’s spokeswoman said
it sounded like Clarke was “auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie.”
But Clarke told the AP he simply wants
people to know what their options are in protecting themselves.
“I’m not telling you to `Hey, pick up a
gun and blast away,’” he said. “People need to know what they are doing
if they chose that method – to defend themselves.”
He said self-defense may not be for
everyone, but that people who want to know how should be trained properly.
After budget cuts forced him to lay off 48 deputies last year, he realized he
had an “untapped reserve” — the public.
“People are responsible to play a role in
their own safety, with the help of law enforcement,” Clarke said. “I’m
here to do my part, but we have fewer and fewer resources. We’re not
omnipresent, and we have to stop giving people that impression.”
James Fendry, director of the Wisconsin Pro
Gun Movement, praised the ad, telling Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel: “It’s never been a great option (calling 911).
Unless you can take care of yourself, you’re kind of SOL.”