Monday, November 10, 2008

Sheriff David Clarke: Helping Drunk Drivers One At A Time

In a story from this morning's Journal Sentinel, Dan Bice tells us what a helpful sheriff we have here in Milwaukee County:

On a frigid and snowy Sunday afternoon in February, Brian Allen drove his car off the Good Hope Road entrance ramp to Highway 41/45 and into a nearby snow bank.

It looked, at first glance, like a run-of-the-mill winter accident.

At least that's the way Sheriff David Clarke Jr. treated it.

But he couldn't have been more wrong.

Clarke, the first cop at the scene, instantly moved into helper mode. First, he tried to push and then pull Allen's vehicle out of the snow bank. But even with the help of another motorist, Clarke couldn't get Allen and his Ford Taurus back on the road.

That's when the second officer arrived.

Deputy Sandra Santoro did what any good cop should have done from the start.

Santoro ran a check on the driver and found that his license was suspended. She then sized up Allen, noticing his eyes were bloodshot and glassy and that he reeked of alcohol. Visible inside his car were two empty beer bottles, one empty beer can and an open beer can, still three-quarters full.

"I'm not gonna lie to you," Allen told Santoro, according to her police report. "I was drinking. I had a few beers. I knew I was busted when you guys came.

"I almost got away with it."

As it turned out, Allen's blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit. The 43-year-old driver later pleaded no contest to drunken driving, agreeing to pay a $764 fine.

The story only gets worse from there. Deputy Santoro is now under investigation. Clarke won't say why she is under investigation, but the union believes that it is so that he can keep certain reports (if they even exist) from being released. From Bice's story:

In response to the open records query, Clarke's office released the reports by the two deputies and other documents related to Allen's arrest. Absent from the material, however, is any written report by Clarke on the incident.

Since he was the first officer at the scene, shouldn't the twice-elected Democratic sheriff have filed a report?

"You would think so," said Felber, the union boss.

But that would have meant the sheriff would have put in writing how he tried to help a drunken driver get back on the highway.

It is hard to fathom why Walker and the County Board want to give even more responsibility to Clarke.

Perhaps we could recall Clarke when we recall Walker? Any takers?

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