Friday, June 18, 2010


BADGERING THE BADGES: State Auditor Marion Higa’s audit of the much maligned Sheriff’s Division the State Department of Public Safety confirms the dysfunctionality that has been apparent for years.

She rightly criticizes the lack of focus and ever expanding role set for state sheriffs with her prime critique centering around what was summed up in the title of Chapter 2- “Lack of Guidance and Leadership Has Resulted in Defective Law Enforcement”.

That’s the understatement of the year according to our many sources in the judiciary who regularly call us with complaints of abuse of power.

As Higa points out:

(T)he Sheriff Division, saddled with an ill-defined role and a lack of mission clarity, has struggled to uphold its expanded law enforcement duties and responsibilities. As the State’s law enforcement needs have expanded, confusion over the extent of the State’s law enforcement responsibilities has grown. This confusion and uncertainty is the result of vague constitutional language, a broad interpretation of statutory authority, and the consolidation of functions previously deemed incompatible.

As a result, the law enforcement responsibilities of the Sheriff Division have expanded beyond the service of process and the security of state buildings to now include drug enforcement, illegal immigration, homeland security, fugitive arrests, criminal investigations, eviction proceedings, and traffic enforcement.

But what has really evolved since it’s 1989 inception is a secret police department that operates purely at the beck and call of leaders of the judiciary without any oversight.

Judges may order them to do anything they please even if they have questionable motives and with no one to answer to but themselves the division has been all too eager to please. Some higher-ups in the sheriff’s division have even evolved so much power that often it is they, rather than the judges, that have ultimate sway over the division according to judiciary employees past and present.

According to the summery of recommendations:

We recommend that the Department of Public Safety perform a risk assessment of each section of the Sheriff Division in the course of developing a comprehensive strategic plan for the division that, at a minimum, meets the requirements of Act 100, SLH 1999. The department should also consider proposing statutory amendments to align with the division’s duties and functions as indicated by the risk assessment. We also suggest that the department pursue accreditation for the Sheriff Division from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), to ensure that proper law enforcement policies and procedures are enacted and followed.

It’s not really shocking that there are apparently no administrative rules for their activities- that’s a common denominator of many out of control state departments and apparently without the filing of a lawsuit- in this case to be heard by the very judges that take advantage of the system- it remains up to those in charge to pass Chapter 91 procedures.

But even more important is what is hidden in the last sentence- again to no one’s surprise the Sheriff’s Division is not an accredited law enforcement agency.

One of the main tenets of accreditation is the idea of civilian control of our paramilitary forces- i.e. police- whether local, state or federal.

The Sheriff’s Division joins another out of control secret state police department. the Department of Land and Natural Recourses’ (DLNR) Division of Conservation and Recourse Enforcement (DOCARE) which answers solely to the director of the DLNR with no civilian oversight board or commission.

Unless people demand civilian control of those that carry weapons and have the power to detain and arrest citizens, conditions like those described in this audit will continue to plague law enforcement.

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