MILWAUKEE — The dispute between Milwaukee County’s chief executive and its sheriff over operating hours for a Milwaukee park that’s at the center of a neighborhood where riots erupted after a police shooting last month is heading back to court.
Judge David Hansher will hold a hearing Wednesday on his order that Sherman Park return to its normal 10 p.m. closing time. County Executive Chris Abele got the judge to issue a temporary restraining order late Sunday barring Sheriff David Clarke from closing the park early. The sheriff imposed shortened hours in the wake of last month’s unrest, closing the park at 6 p.m., saying it had been used as a staging ground for the violent protests.
Abele on Sunday ordered the bright orange snow fencing surrounding the park removed. Clark responded the same day by having his deputies put it back up, saying the county executive didn’t have the legal power to overrule a sheriff’s decision. But in keeping with the judge’s order, crews removed the fencing once again Monday afternoon, WTMJ-TV reported.
Two nights of violence erupted after a Milwaukee police officer fatally shot Sylville Smith two blocks from the park on Aug. 13. Police have said Smith was holding a gun when he turned toward the officer who shot him.
Hansher said Clarke can’t impede the public’s access to the park and that closing it does not serve the public’s interest, pointing out that there have been no incidents in the park for weeks, and that the riots and vandalism took place outside the park. He said that he wished the sheriff and county executive would have worked something out.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the judge also chastised Clarke for failing to appear in court Sunday and not sending an attorney, calling it “contemptuous of the civil proceeding and the public’s right to have a hearing.”
“The sheriff is not above the law,” Hansher said.