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Sheriff's radio ad on defense stirs controversy

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. says calling 911 and waiting for help to arrive isn't always the best option.

Clarke's voice on a radio ad calls for county residents to defend themselves, saying they should learn to use firearms so they can defend themselves until deputies arrive.

He says budget cuts have slowed response times. The president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs' Association says the ad sounds like a call to vigilante action.

Clarke appeared on national TV Jan. 28 to defend his message.

On CNN's "Starting Point," host Soledad O'Brien said the ad was "kind of scary," and she asked if the goal was for everybody to run out and buy guns. Clarke said the criminals are the only scary things - and with fewer officers on the streets, he said he just wanted to give people options to save themselves.

Speaking from a convention in California, the Milwaukee sheriff said he had to lay off 42 people last year, and he was left with 350 sworn officers. He also said 1,500 Milwaukee police officers are each getting a three-day furlough this year.

Clarke said as all that happens, "Crime continues to go on. At some point, there is a breaking point." Clarke's ad says people can no longer sit back and wait for officers to save them after they call 911.

O'Brien told Clarke that many law enforcement officials believe the real danger is having so many armed citizens who are not well-trained. She cited the police chief in Chicago who called it a "recipe for disaster."

Clarke said, "I trust law-abiding citizens. The people who scare me are the criminal elements." He said the tactic would not put more guns on the street because, "The guns are already there."