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Amid Milwaukee unrest, controversial black sheriff clashes with city's white police chief...

Amid Milwaukee unrest, controversial black sheriff clashes with city's white police chief...

by Jaweed Kaleem, LA Times

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.

Their disagreements have come to a head on a national stage this week as Milwaukee grapples with the aftermath of the police killing of a 23-year-old black man, Sylville Smith, a case that itself complicates the narrative that has dominated a national debate over policing and race.

Authorities say Smith had taken off on foot after a traffic stop and turned toward an officer while raising a gun. Mayor Tom Barrett says he has seen a photograph showing that Smith was armed. Smith's family says he sometimes carried a gun but doubts that he would have raised it at an officer.

The officer who fired the fatal shots was also black, and according to Smith’s family, the two men knew each other from high school.

The state justice department is investigating the shooting and plans to release a video from the body camera of the officer, according to a spokeswoman, though she said there was no timeline for making it public.

In interviews, the two law enforcement leaders had little nice to say about each other.

"He's not from here," Clarke said of Flynn, calling him “political” and “arrogant.”

"Nobody has got more to say about law enforcement and less to do with it," Flynn said of Clarke, calling him a self-serving man who seeks “celebrity.”

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