Milwaukee Sheriff Tells Residents Calling 911 'Is No Longer Your Best Option'

The police department in Milwaukee is a little short-staffed after a round of government layoffs. County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. has just released a radio ad in which he tells Milwaukee residents "I need you in the game" (the game is "being police offers").

"With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option," he adds. "You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. ... Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there."

It's possible that unforeseen consequences could arise out of framing gun violence and public safety as a "game" in which calling 911 and relying upon timely police assistance is a "spectator sport." But Clarke doesn't feel that he has any other choice: in an interview with the AP, he said "I'm not telling you to 'Hey, pick up a gun and blast away.' ...People need to know what they are doing if they choose that method - to defend themselves."

But he also said he wanted to call on residents to be law enforcement "partners." He said he could either whine about budget cuts that forced him to lay off 48 deputies last year or he could get creative.

Four years ago, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett incurred "extensive injuries" from being beaten with a tire iron after trying to protect a woman from her attacker. He spent several hours in surgery to repair damage to his hands and face and also lost several teeth.

"A firearm and a plan of defense would have come in handy for him that day," Clarke said.

The executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, Jeri Bonavia, called the ads "irresponsible," saying Clarke "owes this community an apology. And if he really believes that he's not capable of providing for our public safety he should get a different job." A not unfair point, but of course anyone who replaced Clarke would still be short at least 48 deputies, which would make ensuring public safety a little tricky for anyone.

Related: as of October 2012, the fire department of Danville, IL does not "automatically respond to certain medical emergencies, like allergic reactions, chest pains and diabetic problems." Also removed from the list of automatic responses were poisoning/drug overdoses and traffic accidents. The town does have still have a first-response ambulance service that will respond to emergencies.

[Image via AP]