ELKO, Nev. (AP) — Rural Nevada residents and local law enforcement last weekend celebrated decisions by two county commissions to become members of a group that believes sheriffs have the final say on any given law’s constitutionality.
Hundreds of people gathered for festivities in Elko City Park on Sunday, where the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association presented county commissioners with a plaque to honor their membership, the Elko Daily Free Press reported.
“You know what I train sheriffs to do? Kick ’em the hell out of your county,” association founder Richard Mack told an applauding crowd, referring to criticism of federal government and the Internal Revenue Service.
Mack, a former county sheriff from rural Arizona who is also involved in the Oath Keepers militia movement, denounced white supremacy and compared sheriff’s bucking federal laws to Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955.
Mack founded the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association in 2011. The group believes county sheriffs have a duty to interpret and uphold the Constitution that supersedes other elected officials up to the president. It is against federal gun laws and COVID restrictions and sees sheriffs as a final defense against government overreach.
The group has recruited support from local law enforcement for years. But in May and June, Elko and Lander County became the first two local governments to join the organization as members.
The counties passed resolutions and paid $2,500 for a lifetime membership in the organization, drawing the funds from donations instead of taxpayer dollars. It was not immediately known how the association plans to use the funds.
The resolutions state that “any conduct contrary to the United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights will be dealt with as criminal activity.”
“We maintain that no agency established by the U.S. Congress can develop its own policies or regulations which supersede the Bill of Rights or the Constitution, nor does the executive branch have the power to make law, overturn law or set aside law,” Elko County commissioners wrote in the unanimously approved resolution.
The association has grown in popularity among law enforcement officials and people skeptical of federal government overreach — particularly in states like Nevada where ranchers have clashed with federal land management. It has capitalized on hostility to restrictions put in place to contain the coronavirus.
“The sheriffs of the counties and the state of Nevada and the United States don’t answer to the President, we don’t answer to Senate, we don’t answer to Congress, we don’t answer to our governor, and by all means we really don’t answer to our county commission except for the purse strings,” Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts said.
He added: “We answer to you the people, because we the people manage the government, the government doesn’t manage us.”