MILWAUKEE COUNTY — The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer. Milwaukee County has more than 150 parks. They are a popular destination place for families, including Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas.
TMJ4's Charles Benson talks with Sheriff Lucas about his post-pandemic plans for law enforcement.
When Sheriff Lucas steps on the court, it brings back childhood memories - good ones.
Benson: "There is a rumor that you once had game on the court. Was it a rumor?"
Sheriff Lucas: "Well..." (laughs)
Hold that thought, as we go one-on-one about the busy summer season starting this weekend.
Highways will be humming. Parks will be packed.
"We want to encourage people to come out. We're all trying to move beyond the pandemic right now," said Sheriff Lucas.
The responsibilities of the sheriff's office include patrolling the highways and protecting the parks.
"We're going to be out and trying to prevent any type of crime and disorder, trying to detect anything that's happening, " said Lucas, "and then addressing those issues as they come up."
Benson: "How do you feel about your resources going into the busy season?"
Sheriff Lucas: "It's been a challenging time for law enforcement all across the country with the pandemic and certainly a lot of scrutiny. A lot of people have departed this profession, it's unfortunate. We're not alone, Charles."
The scrutiny of law enforcement comes after a tumultuous year with large protests here and around the country, and calls for police reform.
The challenges are not lost on Sheriff Lucas, nor are those memories of growing up near Burleigh and MLK Drive and playing ball in what is now Rose Park.
Benson: "Was it a safe zone for you? Did you feel like this was a place you could grow up as a kid and not worry about things?"
Sheriff Lucas: "We had law enforcement officers who we knew by name, who came over the hill, and when we were doing wrong, they would just say a word and we were scattered and go home."
Sheriff Lucas sees a chance to rebuild that trust, starting with today's youth.
"I say nothing has changed since the time that I was a youth, Charles. But the trust, there was trust in law enforcement. When I was a young boy, law enforcement trusted the community because of a confluence of events that have happened over the years. A lot of that has been eroded," said Sheriff Lucas. "It's incumbent upon all of us to work together to build that trust back up."
Speaking of those days as a young boy: Did Lucas have game?
"I would say that my, my aspirations were really stunted by a draft pick in 1968 of a seven-foot center out of UCLA, named Lew Alcindor, and every young person wanting to throw a skyhook," said Sheriff Lucas.
No signs of that skyhook when he stepped onto the court to play a little one-on-one with Robert. But Lucas eventually was hooked on another career.
Sheriff Lucas: "I knew then I better go into something else, so I chose law enforcement."
Benson: "Sounds like it might have been a good choice."
Sheriff Lucas: "Well, I hope so. It has turned out very well."