Sheriff David Clarke Ordered Airline Passenger Detained for Staring At His Dallas Cowboys Clothing

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who announced he’ll be leaving his position to become an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, is embroiled in a controversy over using his law enforcement officers to harass an airline passenger.

Already under fire for allegedly plagiarizing his Masters thesis in security studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in 2013, it’s now been revealed that he directed deputies to take revenge on a passenger who he felt disrespected him on an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Milwaukee.

When Dan Black boarded the flight he spotted Clarke in the first class cabin. He wasn’t sure it was Clarke because the Milwaukee sheriff was sporting Dallas Cowboys attire — not only wasn’t he wearing his signature hat, he wasn’t wearing Green Bay Packers clothing either. So he asked the Sheriff if he was indeed David Clarke.

According to Clarke, the passenger “stared at” him (if you saw a Milwaukee County sheriff wearing Dallas Cowboys clothes, you would stare too) and “shook his head at him for a prolonged period of time.” Then, Clarke’s attorneys say, he asked the passenger if he had a problem but Black didn’t reply.

That’s the Sheriff’s version of events which is used to justify sending the following text:

The sheriff explained in the text what should be done when Riverwest resident Dan Black got off the plane.

“Just a field interview, no arrest unless he become an asshole with your guys,” Clarke wrote Captain Mark Witek. “Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?”

“Follow him to baggage and out the door,” Clarke continued. “You can escort me to carousel after I point him out.”

The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has decided not to pursue charges
because “it would be difficult or impossible to prove a violation of the only federal statute available to us …beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The County, though, is trying to investigate the incident but Clarke “has refused to cooperate with the probe, calling it a “fake investigation.'” The County was moving forward with a suit over his blocking the investigation, but that is on hold pending the sheriff’s likely move into the federal government.

Meanwhile Sheriff Clarke was apparently assisted in violating the civil rights of a passenger by the airline (presumably unwittingly),

Airport audio shows that the sheriff or his staff were in contact with American Airlines officials about the incident. At 1:13 p.m. on Jan. 15, an airlines representative called Milwaukee County deputies about Clarke.

“Sheriff Clarke is coming off our 1534 flight,” said the female airlines worker. “They called and said there are three passengers that are not being respectful to him.”

There’s video of passengers, including Clarke, deplaning the aircraft in Milwaukee.

If the sheriff was intimidated or frightened by his exchange with Black on the plane, that didn’t seem apparent from video of him after he exited the plane in Milwaukee.

One video shows five uniformed officers with a police dog — not six as Black had earlier alleged — waiting for Clarke and Black at Gate 54 of Concourse D at the Milwaukee airport.

Clarke has called Black a ‘snowflake’ for objecting to police bullying and says anyone “who harasses him on an airplane might get ‘knocked out’.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I literally was reading this trying to figure out if it was satire or real. Now that I deem it to be real, I’ve crossed Milwaukee off my list of places to go within 30 miles of, so long as this literally terrifying man with a gun is running the city…

  2. Jan 15, 2017: Mason Crosby hits a 50-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds left, beating Dallas 34-31 and knocking them out of the playoffs.

    Special snowflake was probably in a bad mood his team lost 🙁

  3. Clarke feels the need to call the police when someone speaks to him yet he thinks Black is the snowflake?

  4. I’m just envisioning Cartman on a plane shouting “you will respect my authoritah!”

  5. Clarke is an inept ego maniac. He announced his “appointment” in Washington before the agency formally announced it. Since then there has been no official word from Washington. He has done nothing in Milwaukee other than fly around the country promoting himself and has left his department in disarray. This guy can’t run a kindergarten let alone a federal agency.

  6. He is a complete fraud, but since he’s been elected four times there are clearly quite a few people that see some real leadership in the costumes, tough words and false bravado. Bad things happen when people allow themselves to stay ignorant.

  7. Are there no laws about abuse of power, abuse of police authority any more. This is clearly an abuse. He needs jail time to let him know he is not an emperor.

  8. Yikes. What an A$$Clown. Those pins on his dress uniform are an embarrassment to him, his office, Milwaukee and the United States of America. :/

  9. It’s clear this guy has no political future in Wisconsin. Do you know how completely nuts they are over the Packers? Now for his DC appointment to fall through…

  10. what part of the Matrix are we in. How could anyone – even some one as egomaniacal, narcissistic, and just plain dumb as Trump want a guy like this anywhere near him? My head hurts …

  11. why did you write this article? It is about politics, not air travel. I don’t want ESPN or the NCAA involved in politics and I certainly don’t want political commentary from travel bloggers

  12. What an absolute jerk. MKE–you should be embarrassed. Get rid of this prima donna, power-mad “sheriff.”

  13. Hey Deltahater, its cautionary! Dont talk/comment to stranger’s on a plan or you could be detained!

  14. He clearly abuses power and has no business having a high-level federal job in homeland security. Four people (including a baby) have died while in his Milwaukee jail including one inmate deprived of WATER for more than seven days. I don’t care about his views on BLM. What I do care about is his conduct.

  15. This is America? Unbelievable! Warlords time soon enough by the sound of things.

  16. I think @Pete is so funny calling me ‘view from the left’ any careful reader would know that’s not a very accurate moniker! [I’ve also been derided as ‘vew from the right wing’ which is equally inaccurate]

  17. Hey, we can’t stand him here in MKE either. For the record, he’s the Sheriff of Milwaukee County (i.e., the heavily Republican leaning burbs that spawned Scott Walker).

    City of Milwaukee is completely different and has a police chief that can’t stand Clarke. Actually, the Mayor of Milwaukee and and the Milwaukee County Commissioner can’t stand him either.

  18. I am perplexed why Donald Trump would nominate this unstable person to be the assistant secretary of homeland security. That roles requires someone with a lot of experience to protect the homeland and this man is just a power hungry incompetent fool. Wow makes him believe he is above the law and can do whatever he wishes even if it violates people rights?

  19. @Deltahater – It’s not about air travel? Read it again, see if you can pick up on the obvious connections to air travel, such as the airport, the airplane and the airplane passengers. You might need to read it a few times or have someone read it to you, but I bet if you are persistent you’ll begin to see the connection.

  20. Pete: walks like a duck, talks like a duck is a simple idiom for those who haven’t bothered to think in complex sentences. Try it.

  21. it must bother Deltahater that someone close to Trump is called out for being a fascist. I’m sure a lot of right wing fanatics take great offense. If Deltahater doesn’t like this web she can read ‎Breitbart News

  22. Shouldn’t this guy be prosecuted for abuse of power or something? I mean for crying out loud how are people ok with the antics that are going on with the current administration and people associated with them? Are going people going to stand up when they start executing the opposition? We just saw Trump physically shove another world leader out of the way. We had a republican politician body slam a reporter and now we have the guy who looks to be the new leader of homeland security ordering henchmen to harass a passenger who has not broken any law and even arrest the guy if he speaks out about it. When is enough enough? Do we want to live under a regime like Putin? How about Duerete who has had thousands killed without a trial including trial? I really don’t get why soo many in the American public are perfectly fine with this crap. Its like they just are willing to give their freedom away.

  23. @Curious George

    I can’t tell sarcasm on the interwebs, I assume you are kidding when you typed:

    “For the record, he’s the Sheriff of Milwaukee County (i.e., the heavily Republican leaning burbs that spawned Scott Walker).”

    That was a joke, right? Milwaukee County is 2/3 blue, 1/3 red. (66.4% to 29.0% Clinton/Trump in the last election)

    Flying related – Clarke was on our flight MKE-DTW a couple of weeks ago. Didn’t notice him until he was pointed out as we deplaned. He was wearing a bunch of bling which I thought was weird.

Comments are closed.