'Constitutional sheriffs': How far-right sheriffs are abusing their powers to push Trump's agenda
A new analysis is shedding light on the rise of a new movement known as the "constitutional sheriffs," where law enforcement agents believe they have the right to use their powers for critical issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election, and more.
In a piece published by Roling Stone, reporter Josh Marcus pointed to the results of a recent survey of more than 500 sheriffs across the country as he noted what those results suggest.
Per the news outlet, The Marshall Project conducted the survey and their findings suggest "more than 200 felt they are more powerful than legislators or presidents when it comes to deciding what’s legal."
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Marcus went on to introduce the group at the center of controversy, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).
"Nearly half of sheriffs in a nationwide survey felt that in their home counties, they are the final word on what’s legal and constitutional — no matter what state or federal laws or Supreme Court decisions say," Marcus wrote.
He added, "It’s a sign of the growing influence of 'constitutional sheriff' ideology that’s spread to departments across the country in the last decade, a mindset that’s pushed sheriffs to resist Covid rules, gun laws, investigate election conspiracies, pal around with militia men, and racially profile their constituents."
He went on to note how law enforcement agents affiliated with CSPOA have also launched investigations to pursue former President Donald Trump's unfounded conspiracy theories.
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Sophia Lin Lakin, interim co-director of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, explained how law enforcement efforts are entangled with politics.
“This is all part and parcel of returning to a world where we’re using the criminal law in a way to make voting harder,” Lakin told The New York Times. “All the things that used to feel more fringy no longer feel so fringy, as we’re starting to see this very much collective effort.”
Christy E Lopez, a Georgetown University law professor, also expressed concern about organizations like of the CSPOA sheriffs as she believes they are “subverting not only reform efforts but also core democratic principles.”
Their website also explains what they believe their role is. “The law enforcement powers held by the sheriff supersede those of any agent, officer, elected official or employee from any level of government when in the jurisdiction of the county,” CSPOA’s website reads. “The vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the President.“
Marcus concluded with a warning about what's to come if groups like this continue to rise. He wrote, "As the country heads toward another divisive election season, in the middle of the pandemic, constitutional sheriffs around the country may further destabilise the counties they are sworn to protect."
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