Military and Police

Sheriffs Taking Strong Stances on the Left and Right

Some of America’s sheriffs have taken a stance against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 287(g) program, otherwise known as the ICE detainer. That is their right, of course. But what are their actions against this federal program all about?

When accepting the ICE program, sheriffs are authorized to research the immigration status of people who have been arrested and brought to the county jail. If they are in the U.S. illegally, they can be held in jail until ICE can arrange to deport them back to their country of citizenship.

Here’s where I see a potential problem. The tactic to end a contract with ICE may only be an attempt by sheriffs to gain or retain political support in areas that are largely liberal. In other words, most citizens are registered as Democrats. Some sheriffs have grabbed headlines for their decision.

Gerald Baker, for instance, ended 287(g) in one of his first acts as Wake County sheriff in my home state of North Carolina. He said, “…that’s a federal program. Let them deal with it. Let them enforce it.” Not wanting to collaborate with federal law enforcement agencies sets a dangerous precedence for the citizens of Wake County. Counties across the country depend on federal agencies to assist in investigations because these agencies bring resources and man-power to address dangerous criminals, including federal sentencing.

But what is lost in that kind of messaging is that programs like T-Visas, U-Visas, and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have been in place for years to do just that. Why weren’t sheriffs’ departments promoting these avenues before ending 287(g) abruptly?

Cutting the 287(g) contract so publicly, with what might be political intentions only, may have hurt relationships with other law enforcement officers, particularly ICE agents.

Gun Laws: Another Political Issue

On the other side of the aisle, more conservative sheriffs are making headlines addressing gun legislation.

“We will not comply.” That’s what Sheriff Mike Lewis from Wicomico County, Maryland said in reference to potential gun confiscation laws. Sheriff Lewis has been one of this nation’s more vocal leaders about gun control.

Many law enforcement leaders, as well as members of the community, believe these laws are unconstitutional.

Another hot-topic law that continues popping up all over the country is the “red flag” law. This law essentially states that if family, friends or others believe you are a threat to yourself or another person, law enforcement can take your firearms.

On the surface, that may seem reasonable. The problem that concerns me is the ease with which someone can falsely report you for being unstable. Complaint filed (or whispered in someone’s ear) and the next thing you know, police are at your door.

Falsehoods exists often in Involuntary Commitment Orders signed by a judge. If someone is mad at you, they can simply explain to a magistrate that you are a threat to yourself or others. Then an order is signed that requires law enforcement to take you to a hospital for evaluation. For someone that is mentally healthy, this is an unneeded aggravation as well as embarrassment.

These processes have undoubtedly helped keep many people safe, but innocent people often get caught in the crosshairs. In Colorado, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams recently made national news by refusing to cooperate with the red flag law, even though that decision could land him in jail.

To combat or protest some federal laws, various counties are embracing “sanctuary” status.

Here’s the blunt truth: No matter what law legislators approve, confiscating guns will never ever be a safe situation for police. And ending federal programs like ICE 287(g) will never make illegal immigration arrests more just or palatable for citizens.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Adam Wilson

Adam Wilson, author of Tactical Reload: Strategy Shifts for Emerging Leaders in Law Enforcement, is a highly decorated 14-year law enforcement veteran who was recognized in 2018 by the National Association of Police Organizations that sponsors the annual TOP COP Awards® for his handling of a human trafficking investigation in North Carolina. He has served as a SWAT senior operator and is trained to carry out specialized, military-style tactics in confrontations with violent criminals. He also collaborated with federal authorities in cases involving public corruption, sexual exploitation of minors and corrupt organizations. Concurrently, he served in a street crime unit that safeguarded against illegal guns, gangs and drugs. He has received five commendations for outstanding service and is a two-time winner of an Exceptional Service award. Wilson, who earned a master’s in Criminal Justice and is pursuing doctoral studies, is an E.A. Morris Fellow for Emerging Leaders in North Carolina and was appointed to the state Human Relations Commission by former Governor Pat McCrory.

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