Vernel Stepter III, Lt. Colonel (Ret.) | Memphis Police Department
Perspective... Sheriff Earnell R. Lucas
His soft, welcoming demeanor belies the power and influence that he commands as the highest authority of law enforcement and protection for Milwaukee County’s 952,085 residents. Milwaukee County Sheriff, Earnell Lucas is the 65th person and the third African-American to hold this position.
Raised in Hillside Housing Projects, educated in Milwaukee Public Schools, he is an alumnus of Rufus King High School and Marquette University where he earned a degree in Criminology and Law Studies. He refined the value of his expertise with degrees from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, and Northwestern University Traffic Institute School of Police Staff and Command.
His comprehension of street life and conditions that fuel criminality is informed by a 25-year career with the Milwaukee Police Department. In 2002 he joined the Major League Baseball (MLB) administrative team of then Commissioner Allan Huber ‘Bud’ Selig and advanced through the ranks to become Vice President of Security and Facilities Management. As the executive for security and investigations of fans and players, he enjoyed what many consider an enviable lifestyle of globe-trotting with the rich and famous. He also had the weighty task of developing best practices for 160 clubs in Minor League Baseball.
In his current position, Sheriff Lucas’ office will administer a budget of $48,319,494 for 2019. A staff of over 700 manage and execute services that are disbursed through 13 strategic areas (as identified on their official website) which include administration, training academy, Milwaukee County jail, patrol of county parks and expressways, court security, airport security / canine unit, criminal investigations, civil process/warrants, security for parks and other county grounds, specialized units, high intensity drug trafficking, and building security.
“Earnell Lucas is consistently the same, whether in the company of billionaire owners of baseball teams or with someone he meets on the streets. He is exactly who he says he is without being caught up in the trappings of that success. He truly has a heart for service. He is a righteous individual, who cares about this community. He could have easily stayed in Major League Baseball.”
— Carl Brown, Philanthropist, and CEOMilwaukee Jazz Festival Inc.
— Freshwater/coast Jazz Festival scheduled Labor Day Weekend
Grandma’s love. My grandmother, Amanda Grey, sacrificed for her children and grandchildren. She worked as a domestic and built her home, something unheard of in the small town of Jasper, Alabama. She was a praying woman and moved me and my three siblings to Milwaukee in 1969, after my mother’s death. She told us that we had to learn to grow up quick and take responsibility for ourselves.
Other than your wife, Linda, with whom do you share your heart. Who is your confident and counsel?
Carl Brown is my spiritual brother. He’s just a strong, good man, and someone I admire, respect, and love unconditionally. When I’m doing right, he’s going to be with me. He’s also going to let me know the error of my ways when necessary.
Why did you choose to leave the celebrity-filled rich lifestyle of Major League Baseball to return home and seek an elected position?
Easy. The young boy in me who always wanted to do right and to do well by his family and community never forgot his humble beginnings. I was raised in the Hillside Housing Projects. I saw a need and opportunity for someone who represented the interest of this community. In 2016, I received calls and had meetings with a variety of local leaders urging me to accept this challenge. They convinced me to seek office. Subsequently, I met with Commissioner Bud Selig, to whom I owe my professional life, to share my plans. He was happy and supported my decision.
How does your expertise, sharpened while Chief of Security for Major League Baseball, inform, enhance your leadership as Milwaukee Country Sheriff?
I held a succession of executive positions in MLB before assuming VP duties for Security and Facilities Management. I also spent 25 years with the MPD working under two chiefs, Phillip Arreola and Arthur L. Jones as a public information officer. When I transitioned to baseball, I had a window seat as Commissioner Selig developed that business into a $12 billion industry. Games are now televised globally. Seventy-five million fans enjoy major league baseball, and 40 million fans have the same experience with minor league games. Those things best prepared me for my new position as sheriff.
What do you perceive as your greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge of our time is keeping our community safe, and positively affecting public perceptions of the integrity of law enforcement. We must also address the problems that confront us on a daily basis i.e. —recklessness of a small group of drivers on the streets and freeways, violence in the parks, and in our halls of justice—or Milwaukee will become a footnote in the history of cities because people, businesses, and commerce will move elsewhere. So, my biggest challenge is convincing Wisconsin power brokers and elected officials, of the urgent need to secure Milwaukee if we’re going to remain a viable engine in this region.
Given the history of racism in America and the complicity of law enforcement in that, all of which energizes a fear of police especially by people of color, what strategies and policies will you implement to ensure that your rank and file respect the constitutional rights of citizens? How will you ensure a more courteous approach to interacting with the public?
You never take an individual’s last once of dignity by berating him or her. When you do that, an animal is all you have left; and how they will act.”
America has become a “gun culture”. Guns are now available to children, teens, and irresponsible adults. As sheriff, how will you reduce gun violence in Milwaukee County?
One lone local sheriff is incapable of solving this dilemma. There must be a national strategy, and collective response to this problem or we will continue to see carnage from gun violence. I have been a victim of gun violence (referencing an incident in 1982 when as a young cop responding to a noise complaint, he was shot in the face). The Second Amendment of the Constitution protects people’s rights to bear arms. One of the consequences is that law enforcement officers face potential threats of guns with every call. Certainly people with gun-related prior convictions, mental health issues, or perpetrators of domestic violence should not have access to guns.
Vernell Stepter III, Lt. Colonel (Ret.), Memphis Police Department. During his 39 year career with the MPD, Stepter earned leadership positions with Special Operations, Aviation Unit, Traffic Division, and the Office of Homeland Security.