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THE COUNTY SHERIFF: Powers, Duties and You!

Butler County Sheriff Brigade

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March 12, 2012

A Brief History


            One of the earliest known mentions of the Sheriff is found in the Old Testament, Book of Daniel, chapter 3:2-3. This 2,600 year old reference indicates that the ancient Babylonians had an office perhaps similar to that of our sheriff of today.


            There is strong evidence that the office of sheriff dates back through Anglo-Saxon history. The Anglo-Saxons were politically divided into groups or units, identically as were the Israelite nation under Moses during the exodus of Israel from Egypt. There is a belief that these Anglo-Saxons, which mysteriously appeared on the European scene from the direction of the Black Sea, may have originated from the ten northern tribes of the House of Israel. These ten tribes mysteriously disappeared from biblical history after being carried away captive into Assyria. (II Kings 17:6) For a more in depth discussion see The Making of America page 55, by Cleon Skousen. It can be purchased from


            The word sheriff comes from the Anglo-Saxon term, shire reeve. The following definitions are found in the 1913 Webster Dictionary.


Shire n.1.A portion of Great Britain originally under the supervision of an earl; a territorial division, usually identical with a county

Reeve officer, steward, bailiff, or governor; - used chiefly in compounds; as, shirereeve, now written sheriff; portreeve, etc.


Sheriff n.1.The chief officer of a shire or county, to whom is intrusted the execution of the laws, the serving of judicial writs and

processes, and the preservation of the peace.



            In 1856, John Bouvier published his work A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and laws of the United States  He provides us with the following definition of Sheriff:


SHERIFF. The name of the chief officer of the county. In Latin he is called vice comes, because in England he represented the comes or earl. His name is said to be derived from the Saxon seyre, shire or county, and reve, keeper, bailiff, or guardian.

2. The general duties of the sheriff are, 1st. To keep the peace within the county; he may apprehend, and commit to prison all persons who break the peace or attempt to break it, and bind any one in a recognizance to keep the peace. He is required ex officio, to pursue and take all traitors, murderers, felons and rioters. He has the keeping of the county gaol and he is bound to defend it against all attacks. He may command the posse comitatus. (q. v.)


     The office of Sheriff is the oldest law enforcement position in the United States. “When the first counties were established in Virginia in 1634, the Office of Sheriff in America began. Maryland soon followed this pattern, and in both states the Sheriff was delegated the same powers as the Sheriff held in England. As in England, respect for the Sheriff was strictly enforced by the law. A special seat was often reserved for the Sheriff in churches. Contempt against the Sheriff was an offense punishable by whipping. At this time, Sheriffs were responsible for both enforcing and punishing offenders. By the time of the American Revolution, all of the colonies had Sheriffs.” The Sheriffs Office In History

The Sheriffs Power


            A sheriff is elected by the people, he works for the people. He is the ONLY elected Law officer of the county, as such he is the Supreme Law officer of the county. He is accountable to “We the People”. Within the boundary of his county the sheriff has more power than the President of the United States. The following example illustrates the power of a sheriff.

The Saga of the Toilet Takers

            The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Toilet Takers (AT&TT) come to your county and declare it is now illegal to own a toilet. “They” will be removing all toilets from the county this week! The people say; “We don’t want you to take our toilets, we like our toilets.” The AT&TT say; “Too bad we are here to take them!” After some debate about the fact that the Constitution does not prohibit the owning and use of toilets, but instead protects the private ownership of property; thus we are free to have them; the sheriff is called. The people explain to the sheriff the situation and remind him that it is not against the Constitution to own a toilet, and he needs to step in and make “them” go away. It is the responsibility of the Sheriff to protect the people. He has sworn an oath to do just that! He works for the people! He, as the Sheriff, has the power and authority given to him by “The People”, to tell the ‘Toilet Takers’ that ”The People have spoken, they will be keeping their toilets! Now they, the AT&TT, have a choice. They can peacefully leave the county without any toilets or they may sit in the county jail. It is their choice.

            “We the people” need to keep in mind that we have a duty to support the Sheriff in the execution of his duty. We need to ‘have his back’. He needs to know that he does not stand alone; that we are standing with him to protect our God given rights as outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It does not matter what entity comes to violate the rights of the people of the county; whether they be private individuals committing the crime or representatives of some Federal, State, International, or Local government agency. A crime is a crime regardless of what form or color of law the perpetrator may bear. It remains the Sheriff’s duty to work for the people! To “Protect and defend” the Constitution! They swear an Oath to do just that! We need sheriffs in every county that understand their duty and have the intestinal fortitude to follow through and uphold their Oath to the Constitution.

            Written by, Donna Fike                    published on



             The National Sheriff Association booklet: The Role of the Sheriff, Past-Present-Future made the following observation: “(The sheriffs are) vested with the powers and duties possessed by their predecessors under common law.” Neither a legislature nor a court of law possesses any legal authority to strip a sheriff of these common law powers. They may assign him additional duties, provided they do not infringe or violate any of his Constitutional duties which he has sworn to defend and protect.

            Another common law power inherent in the sheriffs duty is the ability to call forth the posse comitatus. Historically, this was referred to as “The hue and cry”. This power required all who were within earshot of the sheriffs beckoning call to come forth to his aid.


Blacks Law Dictionary defines the posse comitatus as: “The power or force of the county. The entire population of a county above the age of 15, which a sheriff may summon to his assistance in certain cases as to aid him in keeping the peace, in pursuing and arresting felons, ect.”


                 After the Brady Bill was passed into law, the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) sent letters to the Sheriffs which explained to them, their newly enacted (Unconstitutional) functions. In these letters, the BATF referred to the Sheriffs as the CLEO's which stands for "CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER". Yes even the Federal Government recognizes the power of the Sheriff! Well perhaps only when it is convenient to them.


Sheriffs in Danger

          The sheriffs of this great nation are in danger of losing their power. This comes as a result of the apathy and ignorance of the population at large and the ignorance of many sheriffs regarding the Constitutional Oath they swore and the common law powers they possess.

            According to The National Sheriffs Association,“Sheriffs can maneuver through court battles involving a challenge to their authority and come out successfully when they address the legal protections of their office concerning their Constitutional obligations, and no legal system or authority in the United States can challenge it with any legal standing.” The key statement in this quote is “when they address the legal protection of their office concerning their Constitutional obligations.” How many sheriffs understand the Oath to which they swore? This Oath placed them under obligation to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. How many have studied the Constitution enough to clearly understand their obligation?

            The following examples illustrate the nature of the dangers our sheriffs are faced with. Unfortunately, the sheriffs in these examples have already fallen prey to the “powers that think they are” and will answer to them instead of “We the People”. In the following cases, the elected protectorate, the sheriff, has been illegally taken from the local control of the people and placed in a foreign jurisdiction which is incompatible with their original duties.

            In Salt Lake County, the new year of 2010 started with the sheriffs department being swallowed up by the new Unified Police Department. The sheriff now sits as the CEO of this new department but he has given up his power and control over all financial and policy decisions to a board of directors. Is it possible that this board of directors could tie the sheriffs hands and prevent him from performing his oath sworn Constitutional duty? This is a prime example of the sheriff and the people to whom he should answer, ignorantly allowing the sheriffs powers to be stripped away. You can read the article about this at Deseret

            In Massachusetts, an even worse tragedy has occurred. On January 1st of 2010, the seven remaining independent county sheriff departments (what happened to the previous departments?) were placed under the jurisdiction of the State. This came as a result of legislation introduced by the governor which was consequently passed with ease in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature. Of course it was done under the guise of saving tax payers money and it had the support of their county sheriffs departments and the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association. Does the Governor, or the Legislature really have the power to co-opt the autonomous County Sheriffs Department? I answer NO! By doing this, they have usurped the Constitutional, common law power of the people as provided in their original compact of local government. You can read the praise which this decision received in the publication Cape Cod Today.

            These previous instances prove that “we the people” need to be awake, alert, educated and active. Likewise, we need to help awaken others, so we can effectively prevent these usurpations from happening and if they have already happened we need to remedy the situations and restore our sheriffs to their proper positions.


Judges That Understand the Power of the Sheriff


         Despite the previous examples and numerous court cases which have unlawfully eroded the powers of the sheriff, there is good news to be found. In 1994, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided a case which reinforced the original power of the sheriff. You can read the entire decision here. Following are a few of the important quotes.

           “History records that, even prior to the Conquest, the sheriff was a powerful officer, with both judicial and executive powers.”

            “It is a commonplace that in times going back to the Magna Carta, the sheriff was the chief law enforcement officer of the shire or county.”

            “….sheriffs and deputy sheriffs have inherent power and authority to arrest without a warrant for all crimes, however, committed in their presence…”

            In another case brought before the Supreme Court of the United States and decided in the year 1997, we find the fact reiterated that the county sheriffs do not work for the Federal Government. This decision also reinforced the fact that the state governments are separate and independent sovereign jurisdictions and thus are “not subject to federal direction.” Justice Scalia writing for the majority stated that “The Federal Government may not compel the states to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program.” I wonder if the Governors of the states know this! Justice Scalia included the following quote from James Madison in this decision.

            "In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments (federal and state), and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." The Federalists #51

            The Canada Free Press did an excellent overview of this court decision in their March 22, 2009 edition. Read it here. You can read the entire Supreme Court decision here.

            Both litigants, Sheriff Printz of Montana and Sheriff Mack of Arizona need to be applauded for standing up against the usurpations of their power. We need to understand that when their power has been usurped, so has ours!


Sheriffs Taking a Stand!


         Besides the previous examples which went to court, Sheriff Mack and other sheriffs have been bravely standing up for that which is right.The following account comes from an article written by Alan Stang in News With Views.Com.

     “While Richard Mack was sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, a bridge washed out. Parents had to drive twenty six miles to get their kids to school half a mile across the river. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t fix it. First they had to do an “environmental impact study,” to replace a bridge already there. They were in no hurry. The study would take a mere ten years.

      The people’s suffering reached the board of supervisors. The board voted to dredge the river and fix the bridge. The feds warned that they would be fined $50,000 per day if they tried. The supervisors hesitated. Sheriff Mack promised them and the workers protection and pledged to call out a posse for the purpose if necessary. They built the bridge and the Corps of Engineers faded. The board never paid a dime.”

           The next two examples are taken from Sheriff Macks book County Sheriff, America's Last Hope.

            “The sheriff of Nye County, Nevada, in 1997 informed federal agents who came in to confiscate cattle from a local rancher, Wayne Hague, that if they tried to take the cows that he would arrest them. The cattle stayed right where they were. Then the Sheriffs of Wyoming made a policy that ALL federal agents would have to check with them before they could make arrests, serve papers, or confiscate property within their respective jurisdictions of Wyoming. This should be a law throughout the land and is a tremendous check and balance for all involved. What’s more, it is working and the feds are surviving just fine. Better yet, the citizens of Wyoming are surviving and getting along just fine, also.”

           In February of 2010, a brave Colorado sheriff who understood his power and duty, stood up against the recently implemented gun ban at Colorado State University.

           “I have told the CSU police chief I will not support this in any way,” Sheriff Alderden told The Gazette. “If anyone with one of my permits gets arrested for concealed carry at CSU, I will refuse to book that person into my jail. Furthermore, I will show up at court and testify on that person’s behalf, and I will do whatever I can to discourage a conviction. I will not be a party to this very poor decision.”

           Thank you Sheriff Alderden for taking a stand! The people do have an inherent right to defend themselves against dangerous aggressors! You can read more about this occurrence in the Colorado Springs Gazette.


State Legislatures Supporting the Sheriffs


            Legislation was introduced into the Montana State legislature which would in effect give recognition from this body of law that the county sheriff is indeed the chief law enforcement officer in his county. In addition, it states that “A federal employee…..may not make an arrest, search, or seizure in this State without the written permission of the sheriff….” Furthermore, it declares: Pursuant to the 10th amendment to the United States constitution and this state's compact with the other states, the legislature declares that any federal law purporting to give federal employees the authority of a county sheriff in this state is not recognized by and is specifically rejected by this state and is declared to be invalid in this state.”

Click here to read Montana House Bill 284

            This legislation has since been used as a model and has been introduced in several other state legislatures. Namely, the states of Alabama, Tennessee and Washington. To learn more and keep up to date with the progress of this important effort, please visit the Tenth Amendment Center.


Wrapping It Up


          Please become involved in this effort to restore the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States within the borders of your county and state. It is important that your God given rights, which have been recognized and declared in the Bill of Rights, receive the full protection of law, which your duly elected sheriff is oath bound to obey. Get to know your sheriff. If needs be educate him by sharing with him articles, stories or books about the proper role of the sheriff. Share with him this overview of his powers and duties. Don’t overwhelm him with too much at once. Talk to your legislatures about introducing or supporting legislation like the Montana House Bill 284 which reinforces the sheriffs proper powers within his jurisdiction. Give them copies of Sheriff Macks book County Sheriff, America's Last Hope . Start a web site and or a local group of concerned citizens to assist with this effort. The same person chewing on your sheriffs ear will not be nearly as effective as a large group of concerned citizens. Finally, If or when your sheriff needs to draw that proverbial line in the sand, he will not want to be alone holding that line. He will act much more confidently and courageously when he knows that we are willing to stand with him. Lets do our part to preserve Liberty for ourselves and future generations!


Compiled and written by Jody Fike

Chairman of the Research Committee of the Butler County Sheriff Brigade


        TheButler County Sheriff Brigade is a local group of men and women who are offering their support and assistance to the sheriff. The group is active in getting to know the sheriff and his deputies. They help the sheriff learn about Constitutional principles and his power and duty under the common law. They are also active in attending County Commissioner meetings and writing letters to the Editor of local papers. Their purpose is to promote Constitutional government in the county and to give popular support to the sheriff. Ultimately, we as a group are working towards becoming better prepared to come to the aid of our sheriff when he makes the call.