There is something reassuring about Sheriffs that doesn’t extend to other police officers in my mind.
Perhaps it is that the Sheriffs are elected and as such cannot be a scourge upon the populace in the way that insulated and crooked cops can be.
So often we see crooked cops being brought up on civil rights violations, being found guilty (or the town/city will settle before then), yet the cop goes right back on the beat with little to no accountability for his actions. In fact, it is the taxpayers who often have to cover the cost of the violations that said crooked cop engages in to begin with. In that way the taxpayers are paying for their own civil rights being violated.
Yet with Sheriffs and their deputies we, as voters and taxpayers, have a direct avenue of recourse if they try and do the same…we vote them out of office. It is an accountability that has been instilled in our country since before it’s founding. The modern Police structure is just that, relatively modern. It’s advent beginning after the Civil War with its uniforms and paramilitary hierarchy. Before that, for almost 400 years, the matter of “policing” was left to the Sheriffs or other elected officials.
Of course, back then nearly everyone was armed so crime was low and the Sheriff dealt with disputes mostly. But with the rise of gun control in the early 1900’s we see a rise in a more militarized police force. One would think that with more gun control the cops would be able to walk about like an English Bobby waving a stick. Not only has gun control failed in that regard, it has also shifted the balance of power away from private citizens to the police which is now more of a paramilitary army than the idealized “neighborhood cop walking the beat.” And like in any third world country, those roving bands of “authority” armed to the teeth have free range to impose their will on the innocent without direct consequences.
Sheriffs at least, are still beholden to the public to keep their jobs. It’s checks and balances on a local level.
It is that local connection with the people that they serve that has always led me to have more faith in those who wear a star than those who wear a shield.
And it seems that my faith is being rewarded in several very different states. The majority of Sheriffs in Colorado and in New York are in open revolt against their state governments attempt to undermine the Constitutional freedoms guaranteed to its citizens. Beyond those 2 states a majority of Sheriffs in California helped persuade Governor Brown to veto legislation that would have banned semi automatic rifles.
With the passage of New York’s SAFE act and the numerous rights infringing legislation that passed in Colorado the Sheriffs, by and large, have taken a stand ranging from publicly stating they WILL NOT ENFORCE the unconstitutional measures to joining lawsuits challenging the Constitutionality of the laws.
In the last case unfortunately the Sheriffs of Colorado were thrown off the federal lawsuit that challenged the legality of the gun control measures as the judge claimed they had no standing to file suit. I argue that the judge was woefully misguided. A party that will be compelled to enforce unconstitutional laws should have just as much standing to challenge those laws as do the people the tyranny is going to affect.
But even the courts get it right sometimes as in the case of the Liberty County Florida Sheriff who released a man whose only crime was carrying without a permit. The man, Floyd Parrish, wasn’t barred from carrying a gun, he just didn’t go and ask the state permission before he exercised that right. The Sheriff, Nick Finch, released the man without charging him as he said to do otherwise would be to violate Parrish’s 2nd Amendment rights.
Unfortunately, Florida’s State Attorney didn’t see it that way and charged Sheriff Finch with misconduct and falsifying records. The trial took place in October and the jury took little time to acquit Sheriff Finch. Governor Scott reinstated him shortly after the verdict.
I like the way Sheriff Cooke of Weld County Colorado puts it:
“In my oath it says I’ll uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Colorado. It doesn’t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.”
Because at the end of the day, legislatures can pass any unconstitutional thing they want, but it is good to know that there are men and women who wear the star who will not just blindly follow orders and allow more tyranny and tragedy to continue.
In a way, these Sheriffs are representing the very best of what our Founding Fathers had intended. People who would not follow blindly the aristocracy of lawmakers but rather keep communion with the people and the rights that they have enumerated in the Constitution.
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