The Sheriff Against The Empire

While others fill the Sussex County administration building, Michael Collins of Long Neck, left, and Rich Mutell of Laurel show their feelings concerning Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher outside on The Circle in Georgetown. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur )
While others fill the Sussex County administration building, Michael Collins of Long Neck, left, and Rich Mutell of Laurel show their feelings concerning Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher outside on The Circle in Georgetown. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur )

The Sheriff Against The Empire

By Bill Colley

Some members of Delaware’s state legislature are attempting to disenfranchise their own constituents.  It’s called HB 290 and even some Republicans are on board with the effort.  Delaware is a geographically small state with a population under 1 million people.  It’s comprised of three counties.  Liberal and urban in the north and conservative and primarily rural in the south and our current Republican Party Chairman once described it as three places in one.  To paraphrase, Philadelphia in the north, Indiana in the center and here in the south, somewhere near Birmingham, Alabama.  The state legislature is located in Dover in Kent County in the state’s center but dominated by something called the New Castle Party.  While you won’t find this party on paper, it consists of liberal Democrats from the north and liberal Republicans from the north.  A friend often jokes Philadelphia labor unions make the actual decisions about governing neighboring Delaware.  Dover and Kent County is a company town.

Sussex County, the county where I reside could be described as the portion of Delaware in rebellion.  It has some of the nation’s loveliest beaches (Bethany Beach just placed among the best in a survey released this month) and expensive coastal real estate.  Otherwise the county is planted with trees, cedar swamps, bean farms, chicken farms and dairy farms.  Most of the people on the land have libertarian views about property and government and conservative views about faith.  Unlike some other parts of the state and country, the churches are filled on Sunday.  Among the faithful is our first term Sheriff, Jeff Christopher.  The Sheriff is an evangelical Christian and an evangelical when it comes to local control of government.  He commands a small department serving papers and auctioning failed properties.  Many constitutional and traditional law enforcement duties were voluntarily abandoned by some predecessors in league with the New Castle Party.  One persistent rumor is a Democrat Party government official’s son didn’t get preferential treatment during a traffic stop by a previous Republican Sheriff when the Democrats controlled the County Council.  If this happened it occurred long before I arrived, although.  You could give the story some credence.  A few weeks ago a state legislator was stopped by a state police officer for having a heavy foot.  When the representative got to his office with nothing more than a warning he fired off an intimidating email to state police command with a threat to the trooper involved in the encounter.

My best description for Sheriff Christopher’s goals is the man campaigned on a platform he and his deputies would fill some empty law enforcement spaces in our county, which is geographically by far the state’s largest block of real estate.  The best way I can describe all this is some folks in government believe his deputies aren’t supposed to take any action if attacked while serving eviction notices.  A retired deputy from Prince George’s County, Maryland tells me the deputies in Sussex County, Delaware are even being denied the training and certification needed to protect themselves in an emergency.  After any possible shooting any rookie lawyer would ask about certification.  Deputies passing by a robbery in progress can only call local or state police.  Despite the uniform, they can only do what I can do, telephone 9-1-1.  Actually, as a common citizen I might have better legal standing if I get involved and thwart the crime.

County government insists it can’t pay for a new county police department.  Christopher replies it isn’t an issue.  He just wants to protect his deputies in some dangerous situations.  This has resulted in a physical altercation between a member of the County Council and the Sheriff.  Delaware’s Attorney General, Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, didn’t pursue the assault case.  The Attorney General is the son of a current United States Vice President.  The younger Biden is on board with a neutered Sheriff’s Department and has rendered a decision the Sheriff has no power of arrest.  This despite two dozen clauses in the Delaware Code in contradiction of General Biden and a tradition of policing power for the Sheriff of Sussex County dating to 1669!

County efforts at silencing Sheriff Christopher have failed.  Now a “moderate” Republican and son of a former state trooper is co-sponsoring state legislation designed to remove the centuries old voter selection of Delaware’s County Sheriffs.  The result would be removal of Sheriff Christopher and replacement by an appointee of the New Castle Party.  Christopher was elected during the heady year of 2010 when the Tea Party appeared ascendant.  Patriotic Republicans affiliated with the movement swept Sussex County row offices.  Christine O’Donnell crushed her opponent in Southern Delaware.  At its essence, the Tea Party is about the devolution of big government, the diffusion of power.

I personally favor keeping Christopher in office and eliminating an appointed commander of state police.  Troopers instead would answer to people like Christopher who answers to the public.  On Tuesday morning, a rally is scheduled at the Sussex County Council in Georgetown, Delaware at 10 o’clock and supporters of home rule are encouraged to attend.  On Wednesday there is a state legislative hearing at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon at Legislative Hall in Dover.  Support your local Sheriff!  Please attend.

Sheriff Christopher was one of two law enforcers joining me last Thursday on the radio.  Former Graham County, Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack is backing Christopher.  Our conversation is available at the link below.