Why Sheriff Clarke will be a disaster in his new job, according to his predecessor
May 19, 2017
Sheriff David Clarke Jr.— a controversial law enforcement official known for his outlandish remarks and fatal detention practices — announced Wednesday that he would be appointed as an Assistant Secretary within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in June.
According to various media outlets, former DHS personnel, and Clarke himself, Clarke will oversee the Office of Partnership and Engagement, which functions as a liaison between the Department of Homeland Secretary and state and local officials. The official DHS Twitter handle, however, tweeted out that no official decisions have been announced.
After news broke of Clarke’s new role, former DHS officials — who held the position he will soon take — strongly condemned the decision.
Phil McNamara, who was appointed to the position between April 2013 until President Donald Trump took office on January 20, 2017, called Clarke’s potential appointment “just plain awful.”
As the former assistant secretary of the Office of Partnership and Engagement, McNamara, an Obama-era appointee, told ThinkProgress that the position serves as “an outward facing focal point for a whole range of critical Homeland Security sector partners,” such as partnering with officials on cybersecurity; doing private sector outreach with chambers of commerce and tourism offices; preparing higher education communities; and making a policy footprint in the well-known issue of immigration enforcement.
“Homeland Security requires a whole community approach — it’s not just the federal government that’s responsible for protecting communities, it’s states and local governments,” McNamara said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “As I like to say, my job when I was there both for Secretaries [Janet] Napolitano and [Jeh] Johnson, was essentially to be the Secretary’s eyes and ears with governors and mayors, principally. Those were who I took as my main stakeholders.”
As examples, McNamara cited working with officials “regardless of political ideology” including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel (D), Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) who wanted to partner with DHS on cybersecurity, and Governors Doug Ducey (R-AZ), Greg Abbott (R-TX), Martin O’Malley (D-MD), and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY).
McNamara feared Clarke’s “polarizing” personality in the nonpartisan role would damage relationships between the federal government and local officials, particularly with Democratic governors and mayors. Clarke told a crowd at “DeploraBall” that he would only ever reach across the aisle towards a Democrat “to grab one of them by the throat.”
“I just don’t know if Sheriff Clarke — as polarizing as he is — is going to be able to build those relationships,” McNamara said. “I certainly never made as inflammatory comments about Republican elected officials that I have to work with as he has about Democrats.”
“I don’t know that there will be that level of trust among Democratic governors and mayors,” he added. Pointing to the largest U.S. cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia— which have Democratic mayors and friendly immigration policies, McNamara was concerned that the mayors wouldn’t want to meet with Secretary Kelly because Clarke would be present.
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