MILWAUKEE — A Wisconsin sheriff has released a radio ad telling Milwaukee-area residents that law enforcement cutbacks mean 911 isn’t their best option and they should learn to handle firearms so they can defend themselves until police arrive.

In the ad, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. tells residents that personal safety is no longer a spectator sport and they need to be “in the game.” He urges them to get firearm training to protect themselves and their families.

“With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” Clarke said in the ad. “You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the spot was aired at least once Thursday during the Mark Belling show on WISN-AM.

It was posted on the department’s website Friday. Clarke’s spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin said she didn’t know how often or where the advertisement would be broadcast, or how much it cost to air it.

The sheriff’s office was working on an Associated Press request to interview Clarke.

Clarke’s ad drew a sharp response from others in law enforcement and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whose office released a statement saying, “Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next Dirty Harry movie.”

Roy Felber, president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, said the ad sounded like a call to vigilantism.

“That doesn’t sound smart,” Felber said. “That’s why society has police officers.”

Instead of promoting vigilantism, he said, money should be found to hire more police officers and deputies.

Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, said most law enforcement officials tell her the community should work on taking guns off the street, not adding more.

“What (Clarke’s) talking about is this amped up version of vigilantism,” Bonavia said. “I don’t know what his motivations are for doing this. But I do know what he’s calling for is dangerous and irresponsible and he should be out there saying this is a mistake.”


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,