Protect and Serve
Time for Sheriffs to Walk Tall
The history of the office of Sheriff is a long and noble one. It is the oldest elected office in the world, dating back to the tenth century. Up to the early 1900’s, the Sheriff was known as the leading law authority of his county or geographical jurisdiction. The Sheriff was feared, respected, possessed a great deal of power, and was viewed as the people’s protector.
Today, we are seeing a movement nationally to diminish the role and power of the Sheriff. In some Eastern states the Sheriff is being removed entirely or his job has been reduced to that of a jail supervisor or an errand boy for the courts.
In the West, the Sheriff is still considered an integral part of the law enforcement process, but there is a definite erosion occurring. Regrettably, it is the Sheriffs themselves that have allowed this erosion to take place and have actually gone along as the importance of their own jobs has been diminished.
First, the founders of this great country knew that to concentrate too much power in one location is dangerous, abusive, and destructive of freedom. Thus, three separate and distinct branches of government were established: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. Today all three exist at every level of government. This separation of powers was considered one of the most vital protections of freedom and was required by the Constitution.
All three branches of government were separate and distinct in their respective duties, but were one in purpose: to protect and defend the Constitutional and God-given rights of the people. Even if the courts and the legislature order an action, an executive official should never perform an act he knows is unconstitutional.
Today we have a system saturated with ignorance, corruption, and deal-making. Judges have been heard to say that the Constitution does not apply in their courts. We have legislators who say — and certainly by practice show — that they can legislate anything they dang well please without any regard for Constitutional parameters. Politicians boast of deserving re-election because of the many bills they sponsored or because of the monies they were able to “appropriate” for their constituents.
The Constitution being sacrificed on the altar of contemporary sophisticated political correctness is no more evident than the Sheriff’s acquiescence to go along. No matter how corrupt, abusive, greedy or unconstitutional the courts and legislatures have become, the law enforcement community perpetually goes along. This allows the executive branch to be completely controlled by the legislative, judicial or both, and alternately kills the checks and balances as intended by the founders. It was never intended that one branch of government could control another. Yet law enforcement proudly announces that they must enforce all legislated standards while ignoring their oath to protect, defend, and obey the US Constitution.
The Sheriffs are just as guilty as the rest of the law enforcement community and perhaps worse, because the Sheriff is elected directly by, and works directly for, the people. He has no other boss. He is not appointed by a council; he is not a governmental bureaucrat. He gives his solemn word that he will protect and defend constitutional freedoms. Our constituents, the people we work for, should know we are going to keep our oaths before anything else.
The bad news is that most Sheriffs and law enforcement officers continue to hide behind excuses such as: “It’s my job to enforce the law, not interpret it” or “All laws are to be enforced regardless of my opinions of them” or “all laws must be enforced unless the supreme Court tells us otherwise,” or one of my favorites. “My personal morals or ethics have nothing to do with enforcing the law.”
I have posed this question to numerous fellow officers: if Congress should make a law which requires all cops in this country to go door-to-door confiscating all firearms (to make us all safer of course) would you do it? Most responses fall under these three categories: 1) “That would never happen in America.” (Although in some places it already has.) 2) “No, I would not do it!” 3) “I would quit my job before doing such a thing.”
Regardless, there have always been — and there are still today — asinine laws or laws of hate and prejudice. In Arizona, it’s still against the law to “openly and notoriously co-habitate.” This law is ignored by police. In fact, the thousands of officers violating this law are not even disciplined. Why do officers who say they cannot, and will not, pick and choose which laws to enforce, pick and choose routinely which laws to enforce. The cops call this practice “police discretion.” This is to say nothing of the aged-old “professional courtesy” in which officers give each other breaks on traffic tickets.
Speaking of traffic tickets, how in the world do we justify writing six billion dollars worth of speeding citation annually on traffic laws that are a direct result of lobbying efforts from insurance companies, or enforcing traffic laws which are mandated by the federal government? Who do we really work for?
Finally, what would our law officers do if they were dispatched to a call in 1960 when an audacious Rosa Parks refused to sit in her proper place at the back of the bus? She broke the law! She was causing a disturbance! She was disorderly! Do your duty officer and arrest that lawbreaker!
As I ponder this quandary, I hope that I would have been a peace officer who would have stood by this brave American, shook Rosa’s hand, and accompanied her until she exited safely off the bus. In other words, keep the peace, protect and serve, and so forth.
I’m still amazed that right here in the United States of America, we have continued to allow the abuse and criminality of the IRS. Numerous citizens and IRS employees testified before Congress of IRS agents fabricating cases against innocent citizens. Intimidation and extortion are routine procedures used by IRS agents all across the USA. Congress’s response to these IRS crimes was to require the IRS to be more “user friendly” and to open offices on Saturdays!
Sheriffs continue to ignore IRS abuse or actually assist the IRS in kicking families out of homes over alleged tax debts. There is more than sufficient probable cause, or at lease reasonable suspicion, to investigate IRS abuse and oppose IRS confiscations of bank accounts, cars, homes, and other personal property. How can a Sheriff stand for rights and freedoms and at the same time support IRS criminality? How can we turn our backs on our citizens? How can we justify telling a victimized constituent “I’m sorry, I cannot help you, you will have to sue the IRS and seek justice on your own in the courts”? So, the victim of IRS persecution is forced to spend all his income and spend the next five to ten years in courts to prove his innocence and get his property back. Many times the innocent citizen loses anyway and the rest of us learn just to pay the extortion to avoid the hassle and expense of litigation. All this and the Sheriff refuses to protect or defend the people of his jurisdiction.
To use police jargon, let’s examine the facts here. Widespread abuse and criminal activity within the IRS is irrefutable. Yet, the people’s protector continues to go along with it. Other federal crimes (such as Waco and Ruby Ridge) have left indelible scars on America’s justice system. Corruption and cover-ups were exposed and many painful lessons have been learned and hopefully, never forgotten. The bottom line is, had the sheriffs in both Idaho and Texas remained in charge and in control, nobody would have been killed, including federal agents. The law would still have been enforced and we would never have heard of Randy Weaver or David Koresh.
There is rarely due process when IRS seizures occur. Citizens lose homes, cars and bank accounts without ever having appeared before a judge or jury. Banks routinely turn deposits of citizens over to the IRS on the flimsy authorization of (who else?) the IRS itself. Would it not be appropriate for the local police or sheriff’s office to initiate criminal investigations against the IRS and the banks as well when citizens’ accounts are “misappropriated?” Surely bankers would be less cooperative, or at least
more careful, if they knew of such pending investigations. Who knows, maybe the citizens’ property would be more protected and secured. Does this principle sound familiar?
Another attack by Congress aimed right at law enforcement was the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1996. This was a budget bill, but through the cunning and wheeling and dealing of omnipotent politicians (particularly Senator Lautenburg) a drastic provision was added to this budget bill. One might expect such additional amendments to the budget to be somewhat associated with the budget. Wrong! This federal budget had an “Ex post Facto” law. Arrogantly and proudly passed by your Congress, which declared that any American who had ever been convicted of a “domestic violence” misdemeanor at any time in his or her life, could never own or possess a firearm ever again. This literally means that if you had a domestic violence conviction 30 years ago, served your sentence, paid your fine and had a pristine record ever since, you now would be arrested for even attempting to go hunting! Such laws are constitutionally prohibited (by Article 1. Section 3. Paragraph 3), but what is the Constitution to a politician with an agenda to pursue? *
Law enforcement officers were exempt from the tyranny of the Brady bill, but not this time. Many police officers lost their jobs or were moved to positions that did not require packing a gun. No Chief of Police of Sheriff should have gone along with this abominable law, but they did. No officer should have lost his job because of this congressional action, but they did. When are we going to wake up? When is the law enforcement community going to learn to “just say no,” stand tall and keep our oaths?
I have never seen any law or statute or constitutional provision which allows the Sheriff to ignore some crimes and vigorously pursue others. If tyranny is to be held in check and if American ideals are to remain secure, Sheriffs and all peace officers must be actively involved. Whose side are you on, that of the people you are sworn to protect, or that of self-serving bureaucrats and politicians?
When I sued the federal government over the intrusiveness and unconstitutionality of the Brady Bill, federal district Judge John Roll said, “Sheriff Mack is forced to choose between keeping his oath or obeying the act.” If a legislature puts any law enforcement officer in the same predicament, would it not be appropriate for the officer to object? When a person must either keep a solemn oath or follow the dictates of some political body, then that person’s duty ought to be clear.
My appeal and clarion call to all law enforcement, especially Sheriffs, is that we not allow our oaths to be compromised by legislators and that “we walk tall” in defense of rights and freedom. Indeed, that we send a message loud and clear to Congress and all legislators that we will not be their errand boys or “Redcoats.” That they cannot count on us to blindly go along with their political ploys and tyranny.
The United States supreme Court restored the Tenth Amendment in the ruling against the Brady Bill on June 27, 1997. In this landmark decision, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “the state legislatures are not subject to federal direction,” and that the federal government may not “issue directives” to the States or its “political subdivisions.” However, Scalia’s most powerful statement came when he said, “BUT THE CONSTITUTION PROTECTS US FROM OUR OWN BEST INTENTIONS (emphasis added). It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government, precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day.”
Sheriffs, are we hiding from our oaths behind damnable phrases like, “I was just following orders” and “I don’t make the laws” or are we standing firm, keeping our word, adhering to the Constitution and in the end, walking tall? Then maybe, just maybe, the citizens we serve can rest assured that their Constitution and their Sheriff protect them from government’s “best intentions.”
* [Editor’s Note: Virginia’s “Conservative Republican” Congressman Bob Goodlatte voted for this bill! When we personally asked him why, his response was, “What did you want me to do, shut the federal government down?” Our answer: Yes, if it means protecting our Constitutionally guaranteed rights!]