The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Antigovernment ‘Patriot’ Movement Takes Up Delaware Sheriff’s Crusade

By Leah Nelson on April 26, 2012 - 7:31 am, Posted in Patriot Groups

Update: Proposed legislation clarifying that Delaware sheriffs do not have powers of arrest was withdrawn yesterday by its sponsor, WGMD News reports. State Rep. Daniel Short, who sponsored the bill, said he struck it over concerns that the issue had become too politicized. As an alternative, he is reportedly working on a House resolution to ask the state Supreme Court for a ruling on whether the state constitution grants sheriffs the authority to make arrests.

Sheriff Jeff Christopher of Sussex County, Del., believes county sheriffs are the last defense against lawmakers who plan to bulldoze the Constitution, establish a police state, and implement a dark “agenda” (whose details are not entirely clear).

That’s why, in defiance of longstanding state laws that allocate powers of arrest and most other law enforcement duties to state and city police officers – and not to county sheriffs – he’s launched a crusade to turn back the clock to a time when the local sheriff was the county’s top law enforcement official.

Rallying behind him are adherents of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, many of whom fear that shadowy forces are gathering to take away power from the people and concentrate it in the hands of a “New World Order.” American Free Press, an anti-Semitic weekly published by notorious Holocaust denier Willis Carto, and WorldNetDaily, a far-right online publication that peddles a seemingly endless stream of apocalyptic nonsense, have both reported on the Delaware legislature’s supposedly nefarious efforts to take away sheriffs’ powers.

Christopher also has support from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a Patriot group, which warns that “[p]ower-hungry government officials” “backed by people with hidden agendas” are engaged in a plot to control the American people and take away their freedom. “The county sheriff,” CSPOA’s website says, “is the line in the sand. The county sheriff is the one who can say to the feds, ‘Beyond these bounds you shall not pass.’ This is not only within the scope of the sheriff’s authority; it’s the sheriff’s sworn duty.”

In a phone interview with Hatewatch, Christopher described himself as a “plain-Jane everyday guy” who wants only to defend the people who elected him against an overreaching government that wants to “nullify” his office, clearing the way for the formation of a police state.

As evidence of this scheme, he points to a recent proposal supported by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers that would clarify once and for all that Delaware sheriffs do not have the power to make arrests. If the law passes, he says, he’ll likely sue.

It’s been decades since Delaware sheriffs’ regular duties have extended much beyond serving subpoenas and civil papers, conducting tax sales, and executing other administrative tasks. The legality of this state of affairs has been affirmed by attorney generals’ opinions at least twice – most recently in February by State Solicitor Lawrence W. Lewis, writing on behalf of Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (son of Vice President Joe Biden).

Christopher, who served as chief deputy to a previous Sussex County sheriff between 2000 and 2007, has no reason not to have been perfectly familiar with the limits on his powers when he took office.

That hasn’t stopped him from acting like this is all a huge surprise.

“You think that I became a sheriff thinking that I have no power?” he asked Hatewatch. “I didn’t come in here thinking that I had no power of arrest. That’s a narrow-minded thought pattern. I know what a sheriff is. I know what it says in the state law. And it’s plain and simple, the sheriff is the conservator of the peace.”

According to Christopher’s logic, if he can’t arrest people, his constituents are left unprotected against the menace of government-appointed police who might at any time swoop in and begin enforcing unconstitutional laws devised by overreaching lawmakers.

“The people fear a police state,” Christopher said. “When you erase the lines of sovereignty in the county, you open the door and basically deliver to the agenda itself the ability for the federal government to come in and basically take over. If you have a sheriff that stands against tyranny in each of their counties, if he’s the chief law enforcement officer like he’s supposed to be, then he can block some of those enforcement efforts that the federal government or the state government mandates that may be unconstitutional. He can say no.”

Christopher’s campaign has brought some interesting local characters out of the woodwork, not least at the March 27 Sussex County Council meeting, a recording of which is available online.

“The way I see it, you guys fell for the whole kit and caboodle, you’re into Agenda 21 garbage,” ranted one local codger. “You’re not honest because when you done claim, ‘Oh, we uphold the constitution, and look, we just had prayer this morning, so we’re all Christians.’ Y’all give me a break. Here’s how you’re Christians. ‘Pat, pat me on the back. I go to church on a Sunday, I go to hell on a Monday and then come in and screw the public on a Tuesday.’”

(Agenda 21, which has nothing to do with sheriffs, is a nonbinding United Nations plan for sustainable development seen by some far-right extremists as a sort of Trojan Horse for the New World Order.)

The state chairman of the far-right Constitution Party also spoke, saying that Delaware sheriffs’ powers predate even the founding of the United States and speaking fondly of Sherwood Forest and the Sheriff of Nottingham (who was not, if we remember correctly, a paragon of virtue).

Other supporters accused the council of wanting to “dismantle” and “trample” the Constitution, and compared state police to the KGB.

Christopher acknowledges that some of his supporters are radical. He told Hatewatch he doesn’t agree with all of their ideas. But, he said, “I take more offense to arrogance than I do to radicalism.”

“The same thing that you fear out of the militia-type people is the same thing that I fear out of the good-old-boy network,” he said. “I see that we have an encroaching government that is making laws willy-nilly.”

“You either have freedom or you don’t have freedom, and if you tolerate laws that are gonna close in on your face, and tell you when to breathe and when not to breathe, that’s not freedom, that’s tyranny. And that’s what I’m standing here to defend. I’m trying to close the door and make it a little more difficult for the federal government or the state government to reach in and be intrusive into our lives,” he said.

“The people that don’t line up with this philosophy are the ones that think they’re safe from an intrusive federal government. If you think for one moment that the federal government would not try to run our lives in this country from Washington, D.C., you’re wrong. They’re going to do that. They’re going to run roughshod over top of us if we let this happen.”

  • Levonne Gryder

    Dont Believe the hate articles posted here, those people spreading lies about the Sheriffs are paid for by our own government. They want to stop all sheriffs from making arrests so that they cant defend us when the FEDs come in. Those People are TROLLS who post LIES DONT BELIEVE THEM

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  • Sheriff backer

    If the Delaware Sate Police are the chief law enforcement and a State agency then why do residents of Sussex County pay nearly 2 MILIION in tax dollars for state police protection, that the other two counties in the state don’t pay?

    Municipal police in the state of Delaware are not allowed to patrol any unannexed developments or areas located within the geographic area of the given city or town. . Municipal police are not allowd to respond to any 911 emergencies that occurs within any unannexed developments or areas UNLESS the state police give authorization and grant the municipal police ex facto state police power. When crimes like home invasions happen there isn’t time for this type of turf jurisdictional nonsense.

    Furthermore the nearly 2.0 MILLION spent still doesn’t give Sussex County government the right to dictate where the troopers paid for by county taxes shall serve within the state. Unless Sussex County residents live within the proximity of the resort areas of Delaware they have little or no police protection at all.

    The assertion that the Sheriff or a Sheriff’s Deputy is going to overreact in a situation and shoot someone is rediculous. The Sheriff and Sheriff’s deputies are all former law enforcement officers who have served at either the municipal, state or federal levels. They all have served in those positions for over 20-25 years, prior to joing the Sheriffs Department. There is more of a likelyhood of a first year rookie law enfocement officer drawing his service weapon in a reactionary manner.

    Sussex County is the largest county in Delaware comprising 938 square miles. There is no way that the state police located in the county can provide adequate police coverage or protection to thise residents who live out in the more rural areas.

  • Meyer Persow

    Pay no attention to Wolfgang von Bombast. He’s as delusional as the sheriff on nuttingham, as is Earl Loflin, the chair of the “DE Constitution Party.” He’s its only member.

  • Erika

    oh mr. chairman earl, what am i so incorrect about?

    you seem to be somehow under the impression that a state can never change the common law – that we are forever stuck with the law as it was in 1350 or 1776 or whatever – that is an absolutely laughable position. in the unlikely event that you really did receive legal education someplace you should to ask for a refund

  • Reynardine

    Elsewhere, what I regarded as an inoffensive and chastely-worded post arguing that totalitarianism is a psychological construct rather than a political one has been pending approval for three days, and yet drivel proclaiming the English Inns of Court a secret refuge of the Knights Templar has breezed in. There has even been a post let through that used language deemed inadmissible in US English unless unequivocally referring to actual cats and roosters, yet I have had a post taken down when I didn’t write LXIX as a Roman numeral. No, I don’t think it’s about me, but what the (ahem) Mephistopheles are the standards here?

  • State Chairman Constitution Party DE

    Thank you for the DE Cases Erika and You are incorrect in believing it has been decided already.

  • State Chairman Constitution Party DE

    The coroners power was taken away through a constitutional amendment.
    That it a different issue.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Erika,

    Based on what you just wrote, next you’re going to hear Earl claim that county coroners should possess the power of arrest!

    What a kook!

  • Erika

    Or so Mr. Earl the Chairman is now admitting that his position would require a change of the law. Oh Thank You for educating me! Your arguments are so just like totally convincing.

    And of course, your use of Michigan cases simply shows the way since obviously Michigan cases apply in Delaware.

    Of course, citing actualy Delaware cases would not help you. The phrase Conservator of the Peace only appears in 4 reported Delaware cases – two of which are century old cases citing a statute relating to trespass which gives (or gave I mean this is a century old statute) a conservator of the peace .the power to arrest people who they observe trespassing on the property of another. State v. McAllister, 76 A.2d 226 (Del. Gen. Sess. 1909), State v. Johnson, 78 A. 605 (Del. Gen. Sess. 1910).

    The third mentions that justices of the peace were originally called conservators of the peace. Farell v. Md. Credit Finance Corp. of Md., Thomas Hughes, Inc., 127 A.2d 226 (Del. Super. 1924).

    The third mentions a Delaware statute which seems to rather clearly make clear that a conservator of the peace and a law enforcement officer are not the same thing since otherwise there would be no need to grant the Delaware State Police both the powers of a conservator of peace and given them law enforcement authority. In re Request of the Governor for a Request of an Advisory Opinon, 722 A.2d 307 (Del. 1998).

    As far as the search for Conservators of the Peace – again, 4 cases – one of which is the advisory opinion case.

    You have Rogers v. Delaware State University, C.A. No. 03C-03-218-PLA, (Del. Supr. 2005) – again, it is merely citing a statute which makes the DSU police “conservators of the peace AND law enforcement officers” (emphasis added). The state law would not mention both roles if both roles were the same as you argue.

    State v. Emerson, 10 A.2d 515 (Del. Supr. 1939) – again citing the statue creating the state police.

    the final case citing conservators of the peace is State v. Mitchell, 212 A.2d 873 (Del. Supr. 1965) – the mention was citing a 19th century treatise about English Common Law which mentioned that under old English law the conservators of the peace were sheriffs, coroners, justices of the peace, and constables. Oh wait a second, constables are what we now call police men – the sheriff’s primary role (then and now) is to be the jailer. So that means your view of English common law is actually wrong.

    And finally, your position has been explicited rejected by the Delaware Supreme Court in Watson v. State, No. 3009, 2009 (Del. 2010) which adopted as correct the Attorney General’s 2000 opinion that peace officers are different from police officers – and it therefore follows that under Delaware law sheriffs while peace officers are not police officers. Quite simply, Delaware law would not make conservators of the peace (peace officers) and police officers separate if they were the same thing.

    Quite simply, the position you and the Sheriff are arguing has been rejected by the Delaware Supreme Court and the Delaware state legislature.

  • State Chairman Constituiton Party DE

    Erika,
    First, thank you for finding DE CODE that needs to be revisited and reversed, There are several other statutes, we are aware of as well, but your legal research has been beneficial to helping us out tremendously. Thank you.

    I hate repeating my self Erika, however as I stated in an earlier comment, the US Supreme Court has decided the Constitution is to be upheld first and foremost. Even when legislation implies otherwise. (Allor,). Again,(as I stated in a previous comment) in the Hurlbut case pg 93-113 Justice Thomas M. Cooley stated “The state may mould local institutions according to its views of policy or expediency; but local government is matter of absolute right; and the state cannot take it away. What come first the County Sheriff Office; or a State appointed Law Enforcement Department Erika? And what is the difference between an Office and Department?

    Finally , the US Supreme Court ruling, “Board of Park Commissioners vs. Detroit” the Court applied this precedent again, it was also enunciated by Justice Thomas M Cooley that, “An act of Legislature creating a board of Park commissioners of the City of Detroit, the commissioners being appointed by the legislature, was held unconstitutional and void. Do you get that Erika? the word “APPOINTED” is found void when it violates the Constitution.

    Delaware legislative laws must adhere with both the US and State Constitutions. Delaware’s General Assembly members knows this, very well. Because of my legal experience. (And no, it is not from the “University of I Don’t Remember (or perhaps Glenn Beck University where ever that is)):,

    Why are you so negative and opposed to our republic form of government Erika?.

    Delaware lawmakers experienced what happens when they attempt to pass unconstitutional legislation once before- that is against a minority faction. (HB 245, you can look that up Erika, if you wish to improve on your legal research skills).

    As for your claim a “LEO” (Law Enforcement Officer is not the same as a “Conservator of The Peace” Let us visit “Printz v.US (521 U.S. 898 (1997)), where Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Sup. Ct wrote the Courts decision and used the term “County Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO)” for County Sheriff’s office on several occassions, where in that particular case it was decided that the County Sheriffs Office (CLEO) has more power and authority in his jurisdiction than even the President of the United States.

    Again, State legislation can not supercede the State or US Constitutions.. And Blacks 2d edition defines what a Conservator of the Peace is, as Wolf has explained in his comment..

  • Wolf

    The office of Sheriff is currently clearly enumerated in Article XV, Section 1 of the 1897 Delaware Constitution:

    ARTICLE. XV MISCELLANEOUS
    § 1. Conservators of the peace.
    Section 1. The Chancellor, Judges and Attorney-General shall be conservators of the peace throughout the State; and the Sheriffs shall be conservators of the peace within the counties respectively in which they reside.

    Black’s Law Dictionary [ p.255 , 1st Edition ] defines a conservator as “ A guardian; protector; preserver.” and partially defines peace (internally applied to a given society) as “ the tranquility, security, and freedom from commotion or disturbance which is the sign of good order and harmony and obedience to the laws among all members of society.” [ p. 881 ]. Hence, a conservator of the peace is a legally empowered guardian or protector of the peace, peace officer and/or law enforcement officer.

    Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Edition [p. 249] explicitly defines a conservator of the peace as “Officers authorized to preserve and maintain the public peace.” and further states that “Their duties were to prevent and arrest for breaches of the peace …” The original definition includes Sheriffs and Constables. [ 1 Bl. Comm. 351 ].

    [ SOURCE: "POWERS and DUTIES of the SHERIFF in the STATE of DELAWRE and EMERGENT LEGAL ISSUES" 1st Edition 2011 ]

  • Wolf

    How can anyone even remotely derive or infer support for theocracy from my postings???

    Reading comprehension is an essential skill…..

  • Erika

    Apparently Mr. Earl the Chairman learned history from the same place he learned law – the very prestigious University of I Don’t Remember (or perhaps Glenn Beck University) with perhaps daily reading of the Paris Buisness Review.

    Incidentially, when your entire argument is based upon Michigan cases, you probably shouldn’t try to confine matters to Delaware. But just to humor you I did take a look at the bill and the Delaware Constitution. Maybe if you actually understood what a “Conservator of the Peace” is it would help.

    In any case, here is the actual Delaware Code regarding Sheriffs for anyone interested (oh look, the Sheriff is a Court Officer). http://delcode.delaware.gov/ti.....ndex.shtml

    and for State Police – oh lookie here: “The State Police shall be the primary law-enforcement agency within the State.” http://delcode.delaware.gov/ti.....ndex.shtml

    you also have constables – http://delcode.delaware.gov/ti.....ndex.shtml

    oh this is fun regarding qualifications of police – http://delcode.delaware.gov/ti.....ndex.shtml

    here is the law regarding arrests: http://delcode.delaware.gov/ti.....ndex.shtml

    you might want to also notice how “conservator of the peace” and “law enforcement” is not the same thing. or not – its not like merely citing what the law actually says will make a difference.

    and um pretty much laws are always subject to amendment. but the Sheriff will still be a conservator of the peace along with the judges and hte Attorney General. Sounds fun whatever that means