‘Constitutional Sheriffs’ Emerge as Powerful Anti-Government Lobby

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Capitalizing on anger at pandemic restrictions, “constitutional sheriffs,” elected sheriff’s who argue that their power to interpret the law is above any state or federal authority, have begun playing an outsized political role in national police reform debates and become rallying symbols for people who see them as the last line of defense against unwanted local, state and federal mandates, reports the Washington Post. Sheriffs who embrace the ideology have refused to enforce mask mandates and several have announced plans to resist President Joe Biden’s impending rule that all businesses with 100 or more workers must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or face weekly testing.

In several states, local and state sheriffs’ associations threatened to pull their support for policing bills if lawmakers didn’t remove provisions that called for banning qualified immunity.  In Congress, sheriffs—who number about 3,000, compared with 13,000 appointed police chiefs—were given significant negotiating power on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act when Republican Senator Tim Scott said he would not sign off on legislation that was opposed by the National Sheriffs’ Association. The average tenure of a sheriff is 11 years versus the standard three years of a chief of police. In many states, sheriffs have the ability to raise unlimited campaign funds that can be transferred to other political candidates in the state, which extends their influence beyond their county borders.  Many sheriffs promoted Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen, and several have been caught in the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

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