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In Milwaukee, A Black Sheriff Clashes With the City’s White Police Chief

In Milwaukee, A Black Sheriff Clashes With the City’s White Police Chief

As riots raged in Milwaukee, the county sheriff took to Twitter.

Black LIES matter,” David Clarke wrote to his quarter-million followers, ridiculing the Black Lives Matter movement.

The protesters, he tweeted later, were part of a “culturally dysfunctional underclass” and were responding to “inane provocation.”

His taunts stood in sharp contrast to the message being sent out by the Milwaukee police chief. Speaking on local television, Edward Flynn laid out the facts of the shooting that had ignited the unrest, then said he was heading to a meeting with local black pastors to plead for their help.

It was “very important that those people that are in the neighborhood are constantly giving a message of peace and civility,” Flynn said. “Nothing is being accomplished through acts of violence.”

In racially charged Milwaukee, the two most prominent law enforcement officials — whose jurisdictions overlap — are proving that race is anything but simple. Clarke is black. Flynn is white.

They have clashed with each other for years over the roots of mistrust between police and black residents and how to quell increasing violence in a city with some of the deepest racial inequalities in the country.

Clarke, a conservative, argues that downtrodden blacks are largely to blame for their own plight and that “black-on-black violence” is a bigger problem than mistreatment of blacks by police. In turn, he has taken a get-tough, lock-em-up approach to policing, including the use of military equipment.

He has blamed Flynn for increases in violent crime in Milwaukee, saying the city’s police force should hire more officers to crack down harder on crime. Clarke has also encouraged citizens to arm themselves.

Flynn, a liberal, sees the anger of the black residents as a product of poverty and decades of official neglect and believes the biggest gains will come from increased cooperation between officers and the community. He has belittled Clarke’s proposals and argued that allowing people to carry concealed weapons has increased deaths from gun violence.

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