A right-wing sheriffs group that challenges federal law is gaining acceptance around the country

By | August 21, 2023

The Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, report:

Against the background hum of the convention center, Dar Leaf settled into a club chair to explain the sacred mission of America’s sheriffs, his bright blue eyes and warm smile belying the intensity of the cause.

“The sheriff is supposed to be protecting the public from evil,” the chief law enforcement officer for Barry County, Michigan, said during a break in the National Sheriffs’ Association 2023 conference in June. “When your government is evil or out of line, that’s what the sheriff is there for, protecting them from that.”

Leaf is on the advisory board of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, founded in 2011 by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. The group, known as CSPOA, teaches that elected sheriffs must “protect their citizens from the overreach of an out-of-control federal government” by refusing to enforce any law they deem unconstitutional or “unjust.”

“The safest way to actually achieve that is to have local law enforcement understand that they have no obligation to enforce such laws,” Mack said in an interview. “They’re not laws at all anyway. If they’re unjust laws, they are laws of tyranny.”

The sheriffs group has railed against gun control laws, COVID-19 mask mandates and public health restrictions, as well as alleged election fraud. It has also quietly spread its ideology across the country, seeking to become more mainstream in part by securing state approval for taxpayer-funded law enforcement training, the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism found.

Over the last five years, the group has hosted trainings, rallies, speeches and meetings in at least 30 states for law enforcement officers, political figures, private organizations and members of the public, according to the Howard Center’s seven-month probe, conducted in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.

The group has held formal trainings on its “constitutional” curriculum for law enforcement officers in at least 13 of those states. In six states, the training was approved for officers’ continuing education credits. The group also has supporters who sit on three state boards in charge of law enforcement training standards. [Continue reading…]

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