Guarding against scofflaw sheriffs
January 25, 2024
To The Eagle:
Washington State legislators could change the entire landscape of the election process for county sheriffs and the appointments of police chiefs. House Bill 2027 and Senate Bill 5905 would also allow the state to decertify a sheriff or police chief at any given time.
H.B. 2027 would require sheriffs, police chiefs, marshals, and reserve officers to maintain officer certification and comply with background investigations before a sheriff can file for candidacy or a city appoints a police chief. It would include criminal history and misconduct checks, inquiry into affiliation with extremist organizations, a psychological examination, and review of social media
We enjoy the protection by of a highly professional sheriffs department, its proven reputation for calm reactions during very stressful encounters and excellent, courteous relations with our community. Others are not so fortunate.
The Invisible Institute of Chicago spent more than a year researching police misconduct records. Obtained from thousands of state agencies, prosecutors, police departments and sheriffs, the records detail at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, much of it previously unreported. The records obtained include more than 110,000 internal affairs investigations by hundreds of individual departments and more than 30,000 officers who were decertified by 44 state oversight agencies.
Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels, speaking out against proposed HB 2027, said “It’s my personal opinion that the legislature is violating their oath of office by penning and voting for legislation that is blatantly “unconstitutional”. Sheriffs are not mentioned in the constitution.
The Ninth Circuit has declared that deep background investigations don't violate the 4th Amendment. If it did, the U.S. government & its agencies would have eliminated “background checking” on people long ago.
Some self-described “constitutional sheriffs” assert that they are the supreme legal authority with the power and duty to defy or disregard laws they regard as unconstitutional; in other words, the right to bend the law to their own ends, and selectively apply the law as they see fit. Some dozen rural WA State sheriffs are refusing to enforce State gun control legislation.
HB 2027 could be our best recourse against such scofflaw sheriffs.