Delaware Sheriffs Not Allowed to Make Arrests


American Free Press reported that the Delaware Sheriffs have been stripped of arrest powers by Delaware’s Beau Biden because the DOJ is trying to eliminate all Sheriffs throughout the country.

AFP says that the Delaware Constitution declares that “The sheriffs shall be conservators of the peace within the counties . . . in which they reside.” They cite the situation as “one more example of federal and state governments ignoring the will of the people as well state laws.”

“This time,” they state, “it is Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, sending out mandates to commissioners informing them that their sheriffs no longer have arrest powers. In an opinion released Feb. 24, State Solicitor L.W. Lewis said that neither the state nor the common law grants arrest powers to the county sheriffs.”

According to AFP, “Sheriff Jeff Christopher of Sussex County, Delaware, when he was elected to the office in 2010, thought he was handpicked by the people to represent them as the highest-ranking law officer in the county. Instead, he has found himself in the middle of a fight for the future of American law enforcement as a result of a nationwide effort to abolish the sheriff’s office altogether.”

It is not only AFP reporting the story from this perspective. Numerous blogging sites have picked it up, embellished it, and now it has been gone viral, but the story is being conveyed inaccurately. The insinuation from the stories is that the Sheriffs are standing between the people and a police state. That could be true in some instances, but not in this one.

Citing the federal government as having a role in this is a stretch. There is no evidence of it from what I could research.

The question about the role of Sheriffs has been an ongoing problem since at least 2000 when the state Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, Brian J. Bushweller, asked for an opinion as to whether a Sheriff is a Police Officer and if the Sheriff’s vehicle can be equipped with emergency lights.

The decision was rendered by Michael J. Rich, State Solicitor –

The conclusion that the sheriff is not a police officer is reinforced by reference to 11 Del. C. Chapter 84 which governs the Delaware Police Training Program. The definition of a “police officer” in Section 8401(5) includes subsection b.1. which says that the term shall not include ” [a] sheriff, regular deputy sheriff or constable.” By excluding the sheriff from the mandatory training requirements of Chapter 84, the General Assembly recognized that the sheriff is not a police officer as otherwise defined in the Delaware Code.

Complicating matters is the fact that Sheriff Christopher had an altercation with a city councilman, Vance Phillips, in October. Apparently, the councilman threw a notepad in Christopher’s direction as they engaged in verbal combat. The AG report said that Christopher moved towards Phillips, allegedly to make a citizen’s arrest since he is not allowed to arrest as a police officer. It then appears that Phillips, feeling threatened, kicked Christopher somewhere on his body. The decision by the AG is that it was a heated argument between both men and they were both to blame. Phillips was cleared of criminal intent.

There doesn’t seem to be an abuse of political power here but most pertinent to the topic is that the Sheriff did not have arrest powers in October according to this AG report.

In March of this year, a Delaware House bill 290 was put into the legislator stating that Sheriffs do not have arresting powers.

According to the Delaware State News on March 22nd –

Sheriff Christopher has butted heads with county officials over what authority his office does or does not have in undertaking duties including conducting traffic stops, transporting prisoners and processing outstanding warrants.

Sussex County Administrator David Baker sent a letter to Sheriff Christopher on Oct. 31 outlining several reports involving the sheriff’s office, including that Sheriff Christopher was instructing his deputies to conduct traffic stops when they witnessed infractions including speeding, reckless driving or driving under the influence.

What Beau Biden did was end the debate by continuing the role of Sheriff as is and not as the Sheriffs believe the constitution dictates.

Basically, what Sheriff Christopher wants is to have what he sees as his constitutional powers which are not how his job has been defined. It is an issue that has been around for more than a decade. There is no evidence that the decision is linked to the federal government nor is there any evidence that it is a direct result of the current federal administration’s intervention.

In many states, counties, towns, the Sheriffs transport prisoners and do not have police powers. There is no reason to believe that this is an effort to empower a police state.

This is a non-story unconnected to some of the very real abuses of power by the government.

More Information: Cape Gazette