This Is Delaware

 This morning I was reading an article at Delaware On Line|topnews|text|Home

  It is yet another article about the ongoing issue of the Sussex County Sheriff”s office, and what powers that office does or does not have in regard to arresting and enforcing the law.

  Many of us here in Delaware and especially in Sussex are all too aware of this issue. Sheriff Jeff Christopher maintains that the sheriff and his deputies have all of the same authority as the State Police and municipal police officers. However a similar case that went to the courts concerning a previous sheriff, Bob Reed, found that the County sheriff  is not a police officer. An opinion in the same case of Bob Reed, from the Attorney General’s office also stated that the County Sheriffs do not how police powers.

  Sheriff Christopher contends and relies on the state constitution and its use of the phrase or title, “conservator of the peace”.  Sheriff Christopher states that the state constitution trumps Delaware code in this matter. It was the Delaware code that both the courts and the AG’s office were relying on to make their decisions.

  In the Delaware On Line article there was much made of the fact that in many other states around the nation sheriffs are intrusted with full police powers. Among their powers some are even the jail keeps.

 Let me just say, as a state’s rights person, I care little for what other states are doing with their sheriffs. This is Delaware, we can decide for ourselves. And if anyone wants to live as they do in Ohio, then move to Ohio.

 There are many factors to be considered in this issue. Let’s take the whole constitution v. Delaware code thing first. In my simple understanding of this, the Delaware constitution creates the office of County Sheriff. It is then left up to the General Assembly to define this office in Delaware code, which has been done. The courts and the AG’s office then explains and enforces that definition. This also has been done. The sheriff has also pointed out that in Delaware code there are numerous statutes that give the office of sheriff arrest powers, such as in the case of dog theft. The sheriff can also be specifically ordered by a judge to make a specific arrest of a person named in a specific warrant. So the sheriff will have to admit that the Delaware code has the authority to define the powers of his office.

 I would also like to point out something that causes me great concern in this matter.  Sheriff Christopher has on many occasions stated that his deputies need the additional training for the safety of both the public and themselves. So that when they are put into situations they are properly trained to handle the situation.

 Yet, the sheriff has instructed his deputies to continue to pull over vehicles, to seek out people to arrest who have warrants, in other words, the sheriff has instructed his deputies to insert themselves into the very situations that the sheriff has stated  they are not properly trained to handle. One has to wonder is he intentionally putting his deputies at risk to force the issue back into court? One would hope not.

  I believe that this needs to be settled once and for all. How that will happen I am not sure, but it would seem as if the sheriff intends to keep the issue front and center. I would think that we can expect that the General Assembly will be addressing this issue in the up coming session. I would expect that the General Assembly will seek to clean up Delaware code to clarify what the office of sheriff is and is not. I would expect that any move in this direction will and should begin from the Republican side of the aisle, since the sheriff is a Republican and any Democrat move would be labeled political. I think anyone with any political savvy can see how this is likely to end. I would expect that a sworn elected official would honor the decision of the courts, the Attorney General’s office and the General Assembly.

 If this plays out the way most feel that it will, then I would encourage Sheriff Christopher to honor the decisions and to discharge his duties as defined in such decisions. And then he should make the issue front, center and singular in his next campaign for re-election. He might even want to consider running for higher office so that he can bring legislation to change the definition.


2 Responses to “This Is Delaware”

  1. Ron Says:

    This matter should be held to the highest standard and all political party fighting should be put aside for the security of all the people of Delaware no matter what your party affiliations are.
    In the United States of America the scope of a sheriff varies across states and counties. The sheriff is always a county official and serves as the arm of the county court. In urban areas a sheriff may be restricted to court duties such as administering the county jail, providing courtroom security and prisoner transport, serving warrants, and serving process. Sheriffs may also patrol outside of the city or town limits. In many rural areas, sheriffs and their deputies serve as the principal police force. Furthermore everyone is forgeting one fact, the only fact is this country and the great state of Delaware was formed by a document called the CONSTITUTION. The sheriff is not directed by a council nor board. The people voted for this sheriff and or any sheriff. People forget that the is ran by the Sheriff and it is his constitutional duty to inforce the law. The Police Training states that the Sheriffs should not be included in state training which is a violation of that constitution. The Honorable Mr. Biden only needs to make a determination if the sheriff is a constitutional office. If he agrees that it is, then the second prong would be does he or any other office have the authority without a change to the constitution to dictate what he deems necessary to protect the residence of his county. In conclusion if A.G.Biden finds as a matter of law and only law no politics, that the sheriff can only conduct court duties then he should be able to conduct all court duties that includes, Warrants within his County, Civil, Courts and all Buildings that conduct all county level court. And if the Sheriff is not allowed to send his men to the state training then the sheriff should form his own sheriff’s academy and it should be added to the State Laws. The county council can’t have it both ways. With all the crime going on in this county this should not be an issue but with Ret state officer on the council I can see why there is a problem. With the rescent airing on the news last night the state made foolish statements saying moore police will not stop crime.This is the state police mentality that only they can patrol delaware. They are against towns forming new police departments and definitely against the county sheriff doing his job. If the sheriff was allowed to do his job maybe they would not have to form new police departments within the county.

  2. frankknotts Says:

    Ron, first I will address your last part, research recent crime rates in Sussex county, over all the crime rates have gone down by around two percent, violent crime went down by 8%, though property crime went up somewhat.
    Now as for the sheriff’s duties and the state constitution, again do the research for yourself. The constitution says only that the sheriff will be a conservator of the peace, it uses the same language for the A. G. as well as other offices. Therefore defining the actual duties of the sheriff has been left up the General Assembly, and they have settled this by saying that the sheriffs are not law enforcement officers. No amendment is needed.
    I’m not sure where you get the idea that the sheriff can simply creat an academy and certify himself and his deputies. The state would never recognize this. As for the County Council, they do hold the purse strings, but again they do not have the authority to change Delaware law.

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