Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office Used Asset Forfeiture on Flat-Screen TVs, Disney Training

From 2008 to 2012, the Sheriff’s Office in Milwaukee County, Wis., received $826,000 from the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. As the comptroller audit notes, the Department of Justice gives “considerable discretion” to the heads of local law enforcement agencies when spending asset forfeiture funds. And from the looks of it, Sheriff David Clarke Jr. wasn’t exactly discreet.

His sheriff’s office spent $11,400 on workout equipment for command staff, $77,000 on a mounted horse patrol, $8,200 on nine flat-screen TVs, and bought two Segways for $14,500, to name just a few of the big ticket items. Clarke also purchased two “high performance metal detectors” to “screen employees for weapons, cell phones, recording devices, etc. prior to meeting with the Sheriff for disciplinary reasons.”

But perhaps the most surreal purchase is on page 12 of the audit:

“January 2011—Training for more than 50 participants, conducted on location at the Correctional Center—South, at a cost of $24,900 paid to Disney Destinations, LLC. The training was on Disney’s Approach to Business Excellence.”

Even more incredibly, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “None of the spending violated federal rules governing asset forfeiture money, but it did run afoul of county procurement rules.”

This is not the first time Clarke has found himself in hot water. Recently, he has been sharply criticized for failing to hire competent medical staff for the county’s jails. He faces allegations that he put “sick prisoners in serious jeopardy,” including not providing adequate health screening to patients with HIV. The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin are currently seeking to fine Clarke and hold him in contempt of court.

For more information about asset forfeiture laws, check out the Institute for Justice’s Policing for Profit report. IJ gave Wisconsin a “C” for its forfeiture laws.

–Nick Sibilla

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