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Michael Conniff Headshot

Con Games: Sheriffs, Guns, and Whammo

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In the Wild West -- out here in Colorado, Arizona, and other homes where the buffaloes roam -- some of the Wyatt Burps in the region are turning a tempest into a Tea Party.

Why? Because they have decided that they are the law, padnah, and if you don't like it you can finish that sarsaparilla and head out of town heading due east. Right here in Pitkin County, Colorado, we have our own Sheriff Bob Braudis, a man in and out of rehab who insists that his sworn duties do not include enforcing the drug laws. In Weld County, Colorado, Sheriff John Cooke eschews the testing program of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, set to go into effect November 1, 2010. Weld and his deputy dogs will simply ignore vehicles who don't meet air quality standards, thus allowing them to duck a ticket and a fine because the police just don't like this particular law.

More typical -- and far more dangerous -- are the sheriffs who not only think they're the law but are also well on their way to forming a well-established militia. Richard Mack, former Sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, believes in his bones that the Sheriff not only enforces the law: he is the law.

"The historical review of the office of the sheriff dates back over a thousand years," he has said. "The King of England would appoint a representative called a reeve to keep the peace in the shire or county. The shire reeve, or sheriff, as the position became known, has always been the chief law enforcement officer in the county. Now, instead of the king, the people appoint him.

"The most important aspect of the sheriff's authority is that he's elected by, for, and of the people. He's not a bureaucrat who's appointed and he doesn't report to the town manager or the city council. He reports directly to the people and is answerable to them and them alone. For the sheriff to allow anyone or anything to violate the rights of his employers would be dereliction of the highest order; whether a traffic violation, robbery or tyranny, the sheriff is bound by his oath to uphold the Constitution and to protect the rights of those who elected him.

"The highest police authority within a county is the sheriff and, only the sheriff and the Governor possess the power to call out the militia (citizen volunteers), or posse."
In a world where a posse is a possibility, perhaps the most egregious offender is a yahoo named Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who sued the Clinton Administration back in the 1990s over the Constitutionality of the Brady Bill.

"Sheriff Arpaio is armed and dangerous," wrote the Editorial Board of The New York Times in December 2008. "He is a genuine public menace with a long and well-documented trail of inmate abuses, unjustified arrests, racial profiling, brutal and inept policing and wasteful spending." The Times called him "America's Worst Sheriff."

And let's not forget racist sheriffs in a time of segregation in the South, the brave upholders of a screed that now stinks with the stench of history fading to black. With all the talk of guns and ammo, this new breed of sheriffs thinks it's walking tall when they are nothing but pond scum sucking the life out of the country they claim to love.