Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trump's Favorite Sheriffs: Part of a Growing Anti-Government Extremist Movement


...Arpaio helped found the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group of county-level law enforcement officers who believe that, because they are elected, the authority they hold in their counties exceeds that of both the state and federal government. Led by fellow former sheriff Richard Mack, CSPOA promotes a dangerously wacky interpretation of the Constitution in which sheriffs have the authority to determine whether a law is constitutional, to decide whether to enforce or obey it, and to order federal or state law enforcement officials who try to enforce the law out of their counties. Mack has written that "the greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government."

...Arpaio's embrace of the Posse Comitatus ideology is evident both in the way he sought to enforce his preferred interpretation of the law, and in his open defiance of courts that fulfilled their duty to stop him. He referred to himself as a "constitutional sheriff" and established a 1,000-person force of civilian volunteers – many of them armed – who fundraised for their own law enforcement-like uniforms and patrol cars. Arpaio utilized his posse members for missions ranging from armed patrols of schools after the Sandy Hook shooting to investigating the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate in Hawaii.

The CSPOA claims the support of about 400 of the country's more than 3,000 sheriffs. While this is likely an exaggeration, the group is certainly growing and expanding its efforts to train sheriffs in its constitutional theory of sheriff supremacy. Individual sheriffs have demonstrated they are increasingly emboldened to defy federal and state law. For example, one sheriff stood with armed civilians trespassing on federal land to protest the Bureau of Land Management. Others have thwarted enforcement of gun and tax laws.

Worse, the "constitutional sheriffs" are part of a larger movement that anti-government extremism expert JJ MacNab says is certain to feel legitimized by the Arpaio pardon and other steps Trump has taken that mainstream the movement.

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