Tag Archives: HB 290

Delaware leads nationwide move to strip county sheriffs of power

“If the sheriffs lose their arrest ability then Delaware will be a de facto police state.” -Delaware Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher

Ever wary of tyranny, America’s Founding Fathers took pains to design a political system with many mechanisms to check and balance government power. Those mechanisms include:

  • Dividing government into three co-equal branches (separation of powers);
  • A Constitution that specifies the People as the source of government power, as well as defines and delimits that power;
  • Amendments to the Constitution spelling out the People’s rights and liberties (Bill of Rights) — rights that are by birth (natural rights), instead of conferred by man;
  • Federalism: dividing, decentralizing, and diffusing government power among central (national government in Washington, D.C.) and regional units (the state governments).

sheriff_joeThe fearless Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio

The county sheriff plays an important role in American federalism.

According to Wikipedia, the U.S. sheriff is a county official and is typically the top law enforcement officer of a county. Historically, the sheriff was also commander of the militia in that county. Distinctive to law enforcement in the United States, sheriffs are usually elected. Of the 50 U.S. states, 48 have sheriffs. The two that do not are Alaska (which has no counties), and Connecticut (which has no county governments and has state marshals instead of sheriffs).

Most sheriff’s offices have a law enforcement role, and their basic function dates back to the origins of the title in feudal England. Although the authority of the sheriff varies from state to state, a sheriff or his deputies (in all states except Delaware, where the sheriff’s defined role is going through arbitration) has the power to make arrests within his or her own jurisdiction. Many sheriff’s offices also perform other functions such as traffic control and enforcement, accident investigations, and maintenance and transportation of prisoners.

In fact, the office of sheriff is older than the United States, predating the official founding of the U.S.A. by more than a century. As an example, Delaware’s first sheriff took office in 1669 — 107 years before the Declaration of Independence!

In their role as their counties’ chief law enforcement officer, sheriffs answer only to the U. S. Constitution, not to Washington, D.C. That is why liberty-loving Americans, fearful of the growing power of the federal government, look to the sheriffs as a check. Indeed, on the matter of the Obama regime’s gun control and gun ban, more and more county sheriffs are saying “no.”

It should come as no surprise then that the forces of tyranny mean to curtail the powers of the county sheriff, if not abolish the institution altogether. In that nefarious effort, the State of Delaware is leading the way.

In April 2012, Pat Shannan of American Free Press first alerted us to the machinations of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of VPOS Joe Biden.

Although Delaware’s State Constitution stipulates that the office of the sheriff is a constitutionally created position and sheriffs “shall be conservators of the peace within the counties . . . in which they reside,” Biden sent out mandates to commissioners informing them that their sheriffs no longer have arrest powers. In an opinion released February 24, 2012, State Solicitor L.W. Lewis said that neither the state nor the common law grants arrest powers to the county sheriffs.

Delaware Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher

Delaware Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher

The move to neuter Delaware’s county sheriffs actually began earlier, before Beau Biden became the state’s attorney general. Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher told American Free Press that as far back as 2000, he had noticed a reduction in funding and the chipping away of powers of the office of sheriff. Now, “my deputies and I have been relieved of all arrest powers and can’t even make a traffic stop. Delaware has only three counties. . . The other two sheriffs . . . will not stand up with me”.

As reported by Jack Minor for WND, Democrats in Delaware’s state legislature then sought to legalize Biden’s move with HB 290, a bill to redefine the role of sheriffs: “‘Police officer’ as used in this code shall not include sheriffs and sheriff deputies,” and it “is the intent of the General Assembly to specifically state the sheriffs and their deputies do not have any arrest authority.”

HB 290 redefined the role of sheriffs to where they can serve papers and process administrative work but have no hand in actual law enforcement. Supporters of the legislation said law enforcement authority belongs in the hands of the state police and city police who, unlike the sheriff, are not elected.

Although HB 290 died a quick death when Rep. Danny Short, a Republican who had sponsored the bill, tabled the bill after he realized its true purpose, Democrats introduced a replacement bill.

On May 3, 2012, House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, a Democrat,  introduced HB 325, which is virtually identical to HB 290, in an apparent attempt to get around Short’s tabling of his bill. As described on the State of Delaware’s website:

“This bill makes the Delaware law clear that the county sheriffs and their deputies do not have arrest authority. Historically the sheriffs and deputies have not exercised arrest authority and the Attorney General’s office has given an opinion that the sheriff’s “power to arrest is no greater than that shared by any citizen.”

Sheriff Christopher said he suspects that Schwartzkopf has been one of the key figures behind the entire legislative process to strip the sheriff’s office of their constitutional power: “He wants to abolish the office of sheriff in Delaware. While he issued a statement saying he isn’t interested in getting rid of the sheriff the truth is he wants to neuter us so the office is under his authority rather than the people who elected us.”

Christopher said if the sheriffs lose their arrest ability then Delaware will be a de facto police state.

On May 10, 2012, Delaware’s House of Representatives passed HB 325 by an overwhelming 36-2 majority. On June 14, 2012, the state Senate passed HB 325 by a 12-3 majority.

On June 19, 2012, Governor Jack A Markell, a Democrat, signed HB 325 into law. (Source: delaware.gov)

See also my friend Mark McGrew’s two-part series:

H/t FOTM’s Tina

~Eowyn