In this July 18, 2016 file photo, Milwaukee County, Wis. Sheriff David Clarke speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Clarke says he's taken a job as an assistant secretary in the Homeland Security Department. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

David Clarke, who says he’s taking a top post at Homeland Security, thinks marijuana is gateway to heroin

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who has built his career on talking tough on crime, drugs, and illegal immigration, says he’s accepted a job as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The Associated Press has reported.

Clarke said in an interview with WISN-AM on Wednesday that he will work as a liaison in the Office of Partnership and Engagement, coordinating with state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.

Clarke frequently appears on conservative talk shows and Fox News to state his views on crime in the United States, and doesn’t shy away from controversial statements about crime and African Americans.

A vocal critic of former President Barack Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement, and a strong supporter of Donald Trump, Clarke spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, rallying the crowd with the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” and calling protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland a “collapse of social order.”

Clarke includes marijuana in the category of dangerous drugs. In a House Judiciary Committee hearing in 2015, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) asked Clarke, “You said that illegal drug use is the scourge of the black community and it is a problem and leads to a great deal of violent crime… Would you agree that marijuana possession is not the scourge of the black community, and does not lead to violent crime the same way that meth, crack cocaine or heroin do?”

Clarke responded, “No, I wouldn’t agree with that at all.”

In case that double-negative-filled Q&A was unclear, Clarke took to Twitter late in 2015 to express his feelings about marijuana as “a gateway drug to heroin use”:

In April 2016, Clarke posted a sarcastic tweet critiquing recreational marijuana legalization, in response to a New York Times article on Ohio murders connected to an illegal marijuana grow operation:

Clarke had recently praised his apparent new boss, newly-installed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, for meeting with survivors of crime, contrasting him to former President Obama, who visited convicted felons in federal prison:

According to the Associated Press, Craig Peterson, a Clarke spokesman, said the sheriff would not comment further and that “he felt the need to tell folks he had accepted the position so the governor could get the ball rolling” on appointing a replacement.

DHS spokeswoman Jenny Burke issued a statement that “such senior positions are announced by the Department when made official by the Secretary. No such announcement with regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.”

Clarke would be leaving office with several pending lawsuits against him, including one filed by relatives of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas, an inmate who prosecutors say was deprived of water as punishment.

Associated Press Reporting from Ivan Moreno