This is a serious warning sign. Vice President Joe Biden’s son, the current Attorney General of Delaware, has removed the arrest power of county Sheriffs in that state.
Sheriffs are elected by the people, are not beholden to federal authorities, and the position is constitutionally mandated in the state constitution. Will the people stand by and allow their duly elected law enforcement officers to be stripped of their rightful duties and authority by bureaucrats in a power hungry turf war?
Sheriff Jeff Christopher of Sussex County, Delaware, when he was elected to the office in 2010, thought he was handpicked by the people to represent them as the highest-ranking law officer in the county. Instead, he has found himself in the middle of a fight for the future of American law enforcement as a result of a nationwide effort to abolish the sheriff’s office altogether.
It is one more example of federal and state governments ignoring the will of the people as well state laws. In the case of Delaware, the state’s own constitution stipulates that the office of the sheriff is a constitutionally created position just like the secretary of state and the attorney general. Delaware’s Constitution states: “The sheriffs shall be conservators of the peace within the counties . . . in which they reside.”
This time it is Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, sending out mandates to commissioners informing them that their sheriffs no longer have arrest powers. In an opinion released Feb. 24, State Solicitor L.W. Lewis said that neither the state nor the common law grants arrest powers to the county sheriffs.
It would appear that Lewis is a little confused. The office of sheriff was created more than a century before the official founding of the United States. Delaware’s first sheriff took office in 1669.
Christopher tells AFP that the two administrations prior to his—as far back as 2000—began to notice a reduction in funding and the chipping away of powers of the office in general.
“Now my deputies and I have been relieved of all arrest powers and can’t even make a traffic stop,” he said. “Delaware has only three counties. . . The other two sheriffs . . . will not stand up with me” to prevent the elimination of county law enforcement, he said.
During an interview at the Las Vegas Sheriffs Conference in January, Christopher told AFP that the impotence of his office was brought home to him when he was hit in the eye and kicked by County Councilman Vance Phillips but was unable to arrest him.
The Attorney General’s office issued an opinion bordering on legal malpractice stating that the Sheriff has no arrest powers greater than the average citizen. I guess the AG has no prosecutorial powers greater than the average citizen either because the same paragraph of the Constitution that gives the Sheriff his standing gives the AG his standing as a constitutional law enforcement officer. Even more intriguing is that a study of the Delaware code that the opinion was based upon shows the inherent common law understanding that the Sheriff has arrest powers is recognized in 6 different titles of Delaware Code and around a dozen and a half times in several chapters. In fact, when authority was given to animal control, or the Department of Natural Resources to conduct arrests, here is one example § 1022(a), Chapter 10, Title 3 “State forest officers shall have police powers similar to sheriffs, constables and otherpolice officers”(underlining added).
There are rumblings that that the Sheriff may be looking for the right case to take to court so knowing the AG opinion is based upon nothing but wishful thinking and politics much like the one almost two decades ago, there is move to conduct a political cleansing of the state laws. This bill is HB 290. Without inserting myself into debates over county police forces and other issues, I want to look at the constitutional implications of this legislation.
The Founders suffered under royal sheriffs. When law enforcement is loyal to the crown and not the people, tyranny is only one step away. The sheriff became an elected official who was accountable directly to the people. It is the same principle that makes the Police Chief a mayoral appointee not a city manager or administrator appointee in most jurisdictions that I looked at. We see this principle being violated all over the world and the results are what we would expect, less freedom. We, Americans, sometimes think that we are free because we are special. That is dead wrong. We are not any better than anyone else in the world. By the grace of GOD, we happened to have a better system. It is our Constitution that makes us special. When we abandon its hard learned lessons, we will suffer the same fate seen elsewhere when those principles are ignored.