In the feature, the AP writers, who collaborated with the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, described the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association's (CSPOA's) office as displaying a flag that said: "God, Guns, and Guts, Make America Free." There was also a photo in the report showing German tyrant Adolf Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, with the words, "Gun Control Works."
According to AP, the chief law enforcement officer for Barry County, Michigan Dar Leaf, their interviewee, is on the advisory board of CSPOA, which was founded in 2011 by former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack. The group teaches that elected sheriffs must "protect their citizens from the overreach of an out-of-control federal government" by refusing to enforce any law they deem unconstitutional or "unjust," the coverage noted.
"The sheriff is supposed to be protecting the public from evil," said Leaf during a break in the National Sheriffs' Association 2023 conference in June. "When your government is evil or out of line, that's what the sheriff is there for, protecting them from that."
The report also included Mack's statement in an interview: "The safest way to actually achieve that is to have local law enforcement understand that they have no obligation to enforce such laws. They're not laws at all anyway. If they're unjust laws, they are laws of tyranny. CSPOA has railed against gun control laws, Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) mask mandates, pandemic public health restrictions, and alleged election fraud.
Meanwhile, the AP indicated that the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism's seven-month probe found that the sheriffs' organization "has also quietly spread its ideology nationwide to become more mainstream by getting state approval for taxpayer-funded law enforcement training. In the last five years, the investigation disclosed that CSPOA hosted trainings, rallies, speeches, and meetings in at least 30 states for law enforcement officers, political figures, private organizations, and members of the public.
The probe said that legal experts warn that such training, especially when it's approved for state credit, can "undermine the democratic processes enshrined in the U.S. Constitution" and is part of what Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor and executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University, called a "broader insurrectionist ideology that has gripped the nation since the 2020 presidential election.
"They have no authority, not under their state constitutions or implementing statutes to decide what’s constitutional and what's not constitutional. That's what courts have the authority to do, not sheriffs," McCord said. "There’s another sort of evil lurking there because CSPOA is now essentially part of a broader movement in the United States to think it’s OK to use political violence if we disagree with some sort of government policy."
Moreover, the article quoted one of the left-wing terrorism watchdogs Amy Cooter, research director at the Middlebury Institute Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, saying many sheriffs join the group from "a misinformed but well-meaning perspective." But, she added, it also allows some sheriffs to "potentially engage in extremism by not enforcing legal, lawful, legitimate orders." (Related: AP abandons facts, and demands all media outlets play along with transgender pronoun insanity.)
AP demonstrated their bias against the constitutionally focused sheriffs as it slipped in some subtle racism:
"The public-facing image of the sheriff group, which is led by white men, prominently features the American flag and the experiences of Black civil rights icons who pushed back against unjust laws.
Furthermore, it made Leaf look like a criminal and suggested he was a subversive:
"Leaf was investigated, but not charged, in connection with the Michigan attorney general's investigation into the alleged illegal seizure and breach of vote-counting machines in 2020. He also appeared at an election-denier rally with two men later charged in the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Jon Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University's Program on Extremism, described the sheriffs' group as 'insidious' and said it had become 'mainstream standard-bearers for entrance into more violent forms of extremism.'"
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