Sheriff and County Executive Fight over Sherman Park

Add this to the list of public fights between the County Executive and the Sheriff.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher issued a temporary restraining order on Sunday blocking Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. from closing Sherman Park early, and he ordered the removal of bright orange snow fencing that has lined the park for all but a few hours since rioting broke out in the surrounding neighborhood over a two-day period last month.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele had sought the injunction on Sunday after he reinstated the county park’s normal operating hours and had the fencing removed — only to have Clarke reinstall the fencing and threaten to arrest anyone, including Abele, who refused to leave the park after 6 p.m.

In issuing the temporary restraining order, Hansher said there have been no incidents in the park for weeks, that the riots and vandalism that erupted after a police shooting took place outside of the park, and that maintaining the shorter hours served no public interest.

Hansher ordered sheriff’s deputies not to impede public access to the park “in the absence of any genuine, bona fide reason related to maintaining law and order and preserving the peace.”

It’s actually an interesting question. While the County Board and County Executive certainly have the authority to set the hours for county parks, does the Sheriff have the authority to override those hours in the name of public safety? It appears that the answer is “yes” because he did so for the past few weeks and nobody complained. But now the County Executive disagrees with the Sheriff’s assessment of the necessity of such a measure, does the County Executive have the authority to overrule the Sheriff? Abele and one county judge seems to think so. Obviously, the Sheriff disagrees. So separate from whether one agrees with Abele or Clarke, the legal clarification of the lines of authority will have an impact for some time.