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.”