Search Results for: sheriffs

Colorado Sheriffs Debunk “Sanctuary” Fakery

An open letter this week from the County Sheriffs of Colorado attempts to clarify the role and legal responsibility of law enforcement with regard to detaining undocumented immigrants for eventual transfer to federal immigration authorities. Our generally conservative elected county sheriffs in Colorado are clearly taking heat from constituents energized by the President Donald Trump, and want out of the low-information line of fire:

Recently, there has been increased interest in the topic of how local governments work with federal immigration authorities. As Colorado Sheriffs, we’ve received inquiries on how our jails cooperate with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE.) Some have claimed that Colorado Sheriffs offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants in their custody. Let us clear the air.

Sheriffs hold the rule of law as sacred. We are elected with the authority to enforce the laws of Colorado and to protect the rights guaranteed in the federal and state Constitutions.

Our jails serve two distinct purposes. One is a judicial function, the other is a detention function. Under our judicial function, we hold persons accused of a crime awaiting trial, if a court has not authorized their release. This includes persons taken into custody on warrants issued by a judge or persons arrested by a peace officer under a probable cause arrest. If the court authorizes the arrestee’s release, we must release them…

Outside of legally recognized exigent circumstances, we cannot hold persons in jail at the request of a local police officer or a federal agent. To do so, would violate the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. While Colorado Sheriffs do not have the authority to enforce federal laws, we do work cooperatively with a large variety of federal law enforcement agencies. At times, we participate in federal task forces and other times, we share information on potential federal crimes with those federal law enforcement agencies. This includes sharing information on all arrestees in our jails with the FBI and ICE. This gives them the opportunity to determine which arrestees might also be wanted by federal authorities or who might be in violation of our federal immigration laws.

If federal authorities present us with a warrant or other detainer, signed by a judge or a magistrate, we hold those persons for federal authorities to pick up. However, the courts have ruled that we have no authority to hold arrestees on administrative holds that have not been reviewed and approved by federal judges or magistrates.

Sheriffs have informed ICE that in order to comply with the 4th Amendment, we must get judicially approved holds or warrants. However, at this time, ICE chooses not to do this.

Recently, some have chosen to accuse Sheriffs of providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants, simply because we are complying with the Constitution, as determined by federal courts. This is an absolutely unsubstantiated and ridiculous claim. [Pols emphasis]

We wouldn’t put any bets on the Peter Boyles talk-radio crowd laying off the sheriffs and local governments who they regularly accuse of everything up to and including treason for not keeping undocumented immigrants locked up, but this letter is useful to prove to anyone not already on the fringe of the issue that our local law enforcers are enforcing immigration law to the full extent that it is practicable to do so.

So, you know, enough with the conspiracy theories and stupid bills.

So Long, Sheriffs: Gun Lobby Lawsuit Loses More Steam


Colorado county sheriffs pose for an NRA photo shoot last spring.

An important development last Wednesday in the ongoing legal action by the gun lobby against gun safety legislation passed in Colorado this year, as reported by the Associated Press' Ivan Moreno. Don't let this slip down the Thanksgiving weekend memory hole:

Sheriffs in most of Colorado’s 64 counties filed the lawsuit in May, saying the new regulations violate the Second Amendment. The sheriffs are elected and represent rural, gun-friendly parts of the state.

In her ruling, Krieger said sheriffs still can choose to join the lawsuit in an individual capacity, and they’ll have 14 days to make that decision. But they cannot, as a group, sue the state in their official capacities.

“If individual sheriffs wish to protect individual rights or interests they may do so … however, the sheriffs have confused their individual rights and interests with those of the county sheriff’s office,” Krieger said.

We'll be the first to admit that rounding up a majority of Colorado county sheriffs–generally conservative elected officials who have been boosted for years by pro-gun groups like the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners–to publicly front the opposition to these new gun safety bills was a brilliant public relations move. In Colorado, the huge difference between elected conservative county sheriffs who opposed the new laws for political reasons and appointed police chiefs who generally supported them for practical reasons was lost on the public. Furthermore, some of these county sheriffs, like Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, are in fact distantly on the fringe of the gun safety debate, standing in opposition to all background checks for gun purchases. It's always been our opinion that if the voting public understood the positions held by many of these elected sheriffs, those badges wouldn't count for nearly as much.

And as the Denver Post's Ryan Parker reported on this same ruling, another major component of the fear-based messaging against this year's gun safety bills has been invalidated–again.

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Suthers Wants To Shut Down The Sheriffs

nramagsheriffs

As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports:

The 55 Colorado sheriffs who filed a lawsuit against the state over two new gun-control laws don’t have standing to sue, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said…

“I know the sheriffs are asserting that they have the ability to assert the citizens’ Second Amendment rights, but they haven’t historically asserted other constitutional rights,” Suthers told The Daily Sentinel. “The sheriffs don’t file suits to protect your Fourth Amendment rights, your Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendment rights.” [Pols emphasis]

Still, removing the sheriffs won’t stop the suit from going forward, Suthers said.

“There’s plenty of other (plaintiffs), such as the gun shops, that clearly have standing,” he said.

The lawsuit against the two central pieces of gun safety legislation passed this year, House Bills 1224 and 1229 limiting magazine capacity and requiring background checks for most transfers of firearms, has been publicly fronted by Colorado county sheriffs ever since it was filed. Prior to that, the same county sheriffs very publicly opposed the bills during their debate in the legislature. The Independence Institute, whose research director Dave Kopel is the lead attorney in the lawsuit, has employed the sheriffs and the lawsuit as a fundraising vehicle, presumably with great success. At least one county sheriff, John Cooke of Weld County, has already used this campaign as a springboard to a run for a state senate seat.

An "agreement" a few weeks ago on the enforcement of House Bill 1224's magazine limits, essentially the same terms originally defined by Attorney General John Suthers after the legislation passed, has more or less reduced the scope of the suit to simple Second Amendment constitutionality. Colorado is not the first state to have passed either a magazine capacity limit or universal background checks, and legal experts we've talked to say the chances of this case even being heard by a high court are not all that great. That means the political (see: recalls) and PR value of the suit (see: magazine cover above) is, and always was, its principal reason for existence.

We can't imagine the sheriffs will be pleased if fellow Republican Suthers cuts them out of the action.

Hello, the sheriffs were actually standing with a gun criminal

(Like we said – promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Greeley’s KFKA radio June 7, gun activist Laura Carno asked:

Does [Senate President John Morse] stand by the Colorado Senate Democrats’ tweet that sheriffs, including the Democrats, are standing with criminals for challenging these gun control measures in court?

Host Amy Oliver, who doubles as a staffer for the Independence Institute and is promoted by KFKA as "conservative, intelligent, and sexy," jumped in (@22:30):

We’ve talked about that. They tweeted out, “Sheriffs stand for criminals and against law-abiding citizens.”

Oliver neglected to mention that, in reality, CO Senate Democrats tweeted that pro-gun sheriffs stood “with criminals” because a man who shot a gun at his wife was actually standing (physically with both feet planted) on stage with the Sheriffs, when they announced their lawsuit aiming to overturn new laws banning on magazines holding more than 15 rounds and requiring background checks for most gun purchases and transfers.

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Here Come The Sheriffs

UPDATE: A photo forwarded to us from today's press conference announcing the lawsuit against Colorado's new gun safety bills, Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute on the right:

Kopel_webster_051713

See the man in the black shirt on the left? That's Clint Webster, a 2010 GOP candidate for House District 24.

What's so special about Clint Webster, you ask? We reported on Mr. Webster as part of a 2010 release of the criminal records of a number of legislative candidates, mostly Republican:

Webster was arrested in 1987 for disturbing the peace, and in 1991 for assault. Webster pleaded guilty to felony assault and menacing. The arrest report obtained from the Jefferson County Sheriff shows that Webster was apprehended after firing two shots from a semi-automatic pistol at his ex-wife. [Pols emphasis] When asked by arresting officers what his intention was when he fired, Webster stated something along the lines that he had warned his wife to stop bothering him and had even threatened to kill her, yet she ‘showed up at his home anyway.’

The Denver Post's editorial board had this to say about Webster's 2010 bid:

Many of the infractions are examples of poor judgment that occurred during candidates' younger years. But some ought to take them out of the running. Take Republican Clint Webster of Lakewood, who is running against Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, for the House District 24 seat…

Though that charge was dismissed, a more troubling incident arose in 1991. Webster was arrested after threatening to kill his ex-wife and firing two shots at her and another person from a pistol as they drove away from his house.

Here's a video report from FOX 31's Eli Stokols on Webster's 2010 bid:

"I said I was going to shoot, not kill."

Now, what do you suppose Clint Webster, of all people, was doing at this press conference today?

We can't shake the sense of amazement: these same county sheriffs stood before the Colorado legislature this year and testified against Senate Bill 197, a bill to protect victims of domestic violence from partners with guns. Today, they're standing with one of the worst Republican mistakes of the 2010 election season, a man whose biggest claim to fame is having fired shots at his wife?

Hubris, folks. There's no other word to describe it. Original post follows.

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National gun activist Pratt calls on Colorado sheriffs to arrest federal officials if necessary

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, praised Weld County Sheriff John Cook recently for taking a "very strong stand on what he thinks the limits of the Federal government are."

Speaking to Greeley talk show host Scooter McGee, Pratt said some sheriffs around the country are ready to arrest federal officials if, in the sheriffs' views, they are violating the U.S. Constitution.

PRATT Well, I’m very encouraged by the number of sheriffs that–it’s at least pushing 400 now, that have said– there’s a spectrum. At a minimum, they’re saying they’re not going to cooperate with any unconstitutional gun grabs that the federal government might participate in. And at the other end of the spectrum, sheriffs are saying, “Not only will I not cooperate, but if the Feds are doing something unconstitutional in my county, particularly a gun grab, I’ll put them in jail.” But they’re also addressing other issues where the Feds act unconstitutionally and threaten to incarcerate citizens of their county, the sheriffs are interposing themselves and saying, “If you try to do that, you don’t have authority, and you’re not going to do that in my county, and if you try it, I will arrest you.” This has happened in confrontations with the Forest Service, BLM, the Food and Drug Administration, and of course, the ATF – the gun police.

In a column in the Cortez Journal Monday, Montezuma Country Sheriff Dennis Spruell echoed Pratt's comments, writing that if sheriffs "think a state or federal law contradicts the Constitution, they are under no obligation to enforce it."

It wasn't clear if Pratt thought Cooke would actually arrest federal officials, or if Spruell would arrest them, if necessary to enforce their views of the U.S. Constitution, so I called Cooke and Spruell to find out. 

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Elected County Sheriffs and High-Stakes Politics Mix Poorly

We talked today about the last-minute desperation on the part of Republicans and their gun-advocate allies to kill some or all of a package of five gun safety bills that won initial passage in the Colorado Senate on Friday. A key tactic employed by Republicans and allies in this debate has been to flood the field with as any dire allegations about what these bills would do as possible, regardless of factuality. The goal being to keep the outrage bubbling harder than can be debunked–assuming the press even has the time or willingness, which they often don't.

As you know, county sheriffs in Colorado are elected officials–in a very many cases in this state, Republican elected officials who are eager for political advancement. This has made them a fast ally of the gun lobby and Republicans tryint to kill these bills, in marked contrast, for example, to appointed urban police chiefs much more inclined to support them. There are other factors in that divide, but this is the principal one.

This weekend, politicized, elected law enforcement converged with the aforementioned political desperation to kill this package of gun safety bills, and the general atmosphere of truthlessness cultivated by gun advocates.

And the results were not pretty. KRDO-TV Colorado Springs:

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa dropped a bombshell over the weekend claiming Colorado Senate Democrats are threatening sheriffs' salaries because sheriffs oppose gun control legislation. But big questions remain about who the threats came from.

Maketa made the allegations Saturday morning on the Jeff Crank Radio Show on KVOR. He said he got an email from a member of the County Sheriffs of Colorado describing a verbal conversation that person had with someone connected to Senate democrats.

"Basically in that email, it said the Senate majority leadership, the Dems, are very upset with your opposition and testimony on the gun bills and they are stating we should reconsider our positions to gain a more favorable light for salary support from the Dems," Maketa said.

In a nutshell: that Senate democrats are delaying a measure to raise sheriffs' salaries because sheriffs are speaking out against gun control…

In a talk-radio setting, something like this coming from a sworn law enforcement officer is going to sound absolutely horrible. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa's allegation, which he represents as fact even as he throws in that it's second hand information, is pretty nasty. We, and we don't think anybody who reads this blog in either party would condone a quid pro quo arrangement of silence for pay raises, even on an issue we support. That said, things like this probably do happen, and the picture can easily form in the public's imagination.

The only problem? There's no proof of any of it.

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County Sheriffs Throw Highly Embarrassing Gun Nut Tantrum

weldnugentAP reports via the Durango Herald:

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith backed off his hard-line stance against gun-law enforcement Thursday after he said he would refuse to enforce unconstitutional laws, including gun laws. He warned universal gun registration would lead the government to “target and prosecute law-abiding Americans who are simply exercising their constitutionally recognized right to keep and bear arms.”

According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Smith said later his comments were misunderstood and that he was not trying to determine which new gun laws might be unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, Sheriff John Cooke in neighboring Weld County voiced vehement opposition to President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to address gun laws. Cooke said he would refuse to enforce any part of it. [Pols emphasis]

“I’m not going to help him in any way. I’m not going to enforce it because it’s unenforceable, and because I don’t have the resources. The federal government doesn’t have the resources,” Cooke told the Greeley Tribune.

On the one hand, what we have here is pretty simple: a relatively few staunchly partisan Republican low-level officeholders who have found a national political debate they can glom on to in their official capacity. There’s little doubt that these public statements from a few county sheriffs are being coordinated by the very well-funded and organized ideological opponents of gun control, every bit as certainly as mayors around the country are organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This in itself is not unusual.

But when you get past that, and realize that these are law enforcement officers in their official capacity arbitrarily declaring what laws they will enforce, you realize that it is actually kind of a problem.

As the AP report continues, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke has settled on his very own highly laissez-faire interpretation of the Second Amendment, whereby everything, blanket statement, President Barack Obama proposed this week to reduce gun violence is unconstitutional. Especially, says Cooke, Obama’s proposal for universal background checks, which would be “a step” toward possibleВ “mandatory gun registration.”

Notwithstanding the fact that universal background checks are not tantamount to universal registration, and even though nobody’s proposing such a law in Colorado, gun registration laws were considered constitutional in the recent Supreme Court of D.C. vs. Heller that outlawed outright bans on guns–and federal courts since Heller have upheld the constitutionality of gun registration laws. In short, registration is not confiscation, and this is doubly silly because no one is even proposing registration. It is an incorrect interpretation of the law, that requires a descent into “slippery slope” irrationality to even get off the ground. To characterize this as irresponsible behavior for any public official can fairly be called an understatement.

And what will Sheriff Cooke do if the state of Colorado, not the evil Obama administration, is the first entity that enacts universal background checks–as seems increasingly likely?

On a more fundamental level, what are we to say about law enforcement officers who arbitrarily declare, based on lowbrow and faulty interpretations of the law, that they won’t enforce the law? What are we to say about law enforcement officers who decide a law is “unenforceable,” based on the stunning insight that people can still break it? As if that wasn’t true of basically every law?

It seems to us these gentlemen might be better suited to a job that does not involve enforcing the law at all.

Sheriffs For Treason

(Wow – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Eight sheriffs from Colorado (one in eight of them) attended the the first convention of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association in Las Vegas, which was sponsored by organizations including the John Birch Society.  The group basically argues that county sheriffs have a right and duty to take up arms against the United States government because they claim that the federal government doesn’t have the authority that it has exercised in fact, with court approval, from the very outset of our Republic.

Among those in attendance from Colorado were Weld County Sheriff John Cook, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell, Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, and El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.  

The Colorado delegates, however, disavowed the use of force against federal agents or simply didn’t go there in public comments one way or the other.

The United States Constitution establishes the supremacy of federal law over state law, places the courts in the position of making binding interpretations of the constitution, and defines treason to include taking up arms against the government of the United States.

To be clear, I am not saying that it is treason merely to propose and discuss a political theory under which treason is legitimate, and maybe even a duty of a local official.  Treason is defined on the basis of acts and not words in the United States.  But, to be equally clear, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is an organization of elected and appointed high government officials sworn to uphold the United States Constitution that argues that Sheriffs have a right to engage in acts of treason, and several of the members of this organization have either come extremely close to crossing that line, or have done so.

The organization clamis that: “The sheriff’s position overrides any federal agents or even the arrogant FBI agents who attempt to assume jurisdiction in our cases.”

Elkhart County, Indiana, Sheriff Brad Rogers, Sheriff Tony DeMeo of Nye County, Nevada, and Sheriff Dave Mattis of Big Horn County, Wyoming recounted instances in which they threatened to arrest federal government officials for doing their jobs in their counties for reasons consistent with this organization’s ideology.

Today’s front page story in the Denver Post was an important source for this post, but except for one quotation which it quotes itself from the online materials of organization in question, none of the material in this post is quoted from the story.

Sheriffs For Treason

Eight sheriffs from Colorado (one in eight of them) attended the a convention of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association’s inaugural in Las Vegas sponsored by organizations including the John Birch Society.  The group basically argues that county sheriffs have a right and duty to take up arms against the United States government because they claim that the federal government doesn’t have the authority that it has exercised in fact, with court approval, from the very outset of our Republic.

Among those in attendance from Colorado were Weld County Sheriff John Cook, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell, Montrose County Sheriff Rick Dunlap, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, and El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton.  

The Colorado delegates, however, disavowed the use of force against federal agents or simply didn’t go there in public comments one way or the other.

The United States Constitution establishes the supremacy of federal law over state law, places the courts in the position of making binding interpretations of the constitution, and defines treason to include taking up arms against the government of the United States.

To be clear, I am not saying that it is treason merely to propose and discuss a political theory under which treason is legitimate, and maybe even a duty of a local official.  Treason is defined on the basis of acts and not words in the United States.  But, to be equally clear, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is an organization of elected and appointed high government officials sworn to uphold the United States Constitution that argues that Sheriffs have a right to engage in acts of treason, and several of the members of this organization have either come extremely close to crossing that line, or have done so.

The organization clamis that: “The sheriff’s position overrides any federal agents or even the arrogant FBI agents who attempt to assume jurisdiction in our cases.”

Elkhart County, Indiana, Sheriff Brad Rogers, Sheriff Tony DeMeo of Nye County, Nevada, and Sheriff Dave Mattis of Big Horn County, Wyoming recounted instances in which they threatened to arrest federal government officials for doing their jobs in their counties for reasons consistent with this organization’s ideology.

Today’s front page story in the Denver Post was an important source for this post, but except for one quotation which it quotes itself from the online materials of organization in question, none of the material in this post is quoted from the story.

Colorado Week in Review: 7/28/17

Your deliberately oversimplified glance at what happened in Colorado this week.

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 9)

The President is not a liar.” Welcome to the history books, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the fate of the free world, finally responded to FBI Director James Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump broke his public silence Friday morning on former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony to Congress in the Russia probe, accusing him in a tweet of lying under oath and calling him a “leaker.”

A day after he had allowed surrogates to respond for him, Trump took to Twitter to attack Comey directly, writing: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker!”

Trump’s statement came as surrogates fanned out to defend the president and his personal lawyer was preparing to file a “complaint” early next week over Comey’s testimony to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office and the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a person close to the legal team.

A spokesman for the Justice Department Inspector General declined to comment on the matter, which was first reported by Fox News and CNN.

Trump’s personal lawyer is preparing to file a “complaint,” eh? Nothing screams innocence like a strongly-worded letter. There will be exclamation points!!!

And what about other high-profile Republicans? Incredibly, they appear to be sticking by Trump’s side.

 

► President Trump will take a few questions from reporters today — theoretically, anyway — when he holds a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohanni at the White House. Chris Cillizza of CNN has a list of eight questions he’d love to ask Trump. One of the biggest questions on that list is whether or not there are audiotapes of Trump’s Oval Office discussion with Comey. The former FBI Director certainly hopes they exist.

 

► Colorado politicos reacted to the Comey hearings along largely partisan lines, though Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) agreed on the need for further investigations into Trump’s Russian ties. The three Colorado Democrats running for Attorney General also weighed in on the story.

Elsewhere, the Colorado Independent takes a look at how Colorado media outlets reported on Comey’s testimony.

 

► Voters in the United Kingdom dealt a serious blow to Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative Party on Thursday. May’s decision last month to call a snap election backfired bigly, as The Guardian explains:

Jeremy Corbyn said the face of British politics had changed and called on Theresa May to resign after her snap general election left Britain with a hung parliament 11 days before Brexit talks begin.

Speaking as he was returned as MP for Islington North, the Labour leader declared: “Politics has changed. Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.”

Corbyn said May had called the election to assert her authority. “She wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go.”

The Conservative leader appeared crushed as she accepted her victory in the constituency of Maidenhead with a shaky speech in which she repeated her resolve to provide the stability the country needed before Brexit talks.

Heavy losses by Conservative candidates left May without a true majority in Parliament, forcing the Conservative leader into a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party to maintain her tenuous hold on the top job in England. The New York Times has more coverage on the U.K. election results and what it means for the United States.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Pressure Builds Over Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill

Updating one of the final lingering points of contention from this year’s legislative session, as the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports:

The ACLU of Colorado has sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper urging him to sign a bill that changes how officers and sheriff’s deputies seize money and property suspected of being tied to illegal activity, saying he should not “stand in the way of bipartisan reform.”

“Civil asset forfeiture reform passed the legislature by a combined vote of 81 to 19. It was supported by Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, progressives and just about everyone in between,” wrote Denise Maes, the group’s public policy director. “Coloradans want and deserve stronger protections when property is taken by police…”

“Opponents argue that House Bill 1313 will make crime-fighting more difficult because if there are less forfeiture actions under federal law, local law enforcement agencies will get less money and, therefore, not be able to fight crime,” Maes said. “This position is untenable and frankly, I’m surprised this argument is asserted with such vigor.”

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor.

But as the Pueblo Chieftain’s Ryan Severance reports, police agencies are arguing exactly that:

“If the governor does not veto this bill, it will have an adverse impact on local law enforcement and local jurisdiction period,” [Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk] Taylor said. “It will affect our ability to dismantle the large criminal organizations that we’ve done in the past and it will literally decimate some of the smaller agencies out in southeast and southwest Colorado.”

Denver7’s story today has the same justice-vs. cash for cops argument playing out:

“Local law enforcement is actually selling property before someone is even showing up to trial. That’s a huge problem and so we need to make sure we have reporting, transparency and yes we need penalties for local law enforcement agencies that abuse the process,” said bill sponsor Representative Leslie Herod, a Democrat.

The County Sheriffs of Colorado agree with the need for transparency, but do not agree on how they say it could limit task force resources throughout the state.

“A lot of the counties don’t have the money to put the supplemental budgets in there to make these drug task forces go, and so that leads to decreased ability to do drug investigations and human trafficking investigations,” said Chris Johnson, Executive Director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado.

Politically, this is a bill that Gov. Hickenlooper should definitely sign. The self-interested case from law enforcement that they need the money sidesteps the real problem, which is that assets should not be seized from innocent people. In a civil asset forfeiture case, persons who have had their property seized have no right to legal counsel as in a criminal case. As a Denver7 report last year explained, prosecutors are under time constraints to file the civil forfeiture case, which leads to subsequently exonerated citizens having to wage costly legal battles to recover their property.

The bill in question does not end civil asset forfeiture in Colorado, requiring only greater transparency and a requirement that smaller seizure cases use Colorado’s tighter standards instead of the federal program. The reason law enforcement is resorting to scare tactics in demanding this bill be vetoed is they really don’t have a rational case to make here.

The reason this legislation passed the General Assembly this year with lopsided bipartisan support is simple: there’s no good reason to oppose it. If there was ever a case when Hickenlooper should set aside inside-baseball pressure and do both the right and politically expedient thing, this is it.

Smart Democrats Don’t Let The GOP Own Civil Asset Forfeiture

UPDATE: ACLU of Colorado urges Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign HB17-1313:

The Colorado Legislature came together in 2017 to pass a bill reforming civil asset forfeiture (HB 1313), but Governor Hickenlooper is being pressured by police and sheriffs to veto it.

HB 1313 brings civil asset forfeiture into the light of day by increasing transparency into police forfeiture activities. Under HB 1313, officers will have to detail to the public when they use civil asset forfeiture and tell what was taken and what ultimately happened to the property. Law enforcement will also have to report if the person from whom the property was taken was ever charged with or convicted of a crime.

The bill also closes a loophole in state law that police have used extensively to bypass state-level due process protections by teaming up with federal agencies and seizing property under federal law.

—–

Rep. Leslie Herod (D).

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is under pressure to veto a bill regulating civil asset forfeiture by police agencies–a controversial issue that local Republicans have identified in recent years as good political ground to grandstand on:

Law enforcement and local government groups across Colorado say hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in crime-fighting dollars could be lost if Gov. John Hickenlooper signs legislation that changes how officers and sheriff’s deputies seize money and property suspected of being tied to illegal activity.

Supporters of House Bill 1313 say the measure would add accountability to the controversial practice, called civil asset forfeiture, and better protect Coloradans’ rights to due process. Opponents say that while they support aspects of the bill that add oversight, the money that could be siphoned away would curtail important law enforcement investigations — and they want the legislation vetoed.

“I think this is a solution looking for a problem,” said Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey, who is among the top law enforcement officials in the state urging Hickenlooper to reject the legislation. “I don’t think our senators and our representatives understand.”

It’s generally agreed that Colorado laws on civil asset forfeiture by police are somewhat more honest than horror stories that have been profiled in other states. With that said, the fact that assets can be seized, distributed and spent by Colorado police agencies with no criminal charges being filed against the individual whose property is seized, or charges being dismissed but the seized assets never being returned, is a serious problem that legislators in both parties in Colorado have tried to solve in recent years. Prosecutors say the law requires them to file the civil suit to seize assets before the criminal case is resolved, while defendants complain they either aren’t notified about the civil suit or have no means of defending themselves from one.

And when the system has such a conflict, it’s the little guy who loses his property.

It should be noted that a lot of the pressure to reform civil asset forfeiture in Colorado in recent years has come from Republicans. Ex-Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada in particular made reform of asset forfeiture laws a major issue. Other Republicans have highlighted the problem as an example of government overreach and abuse of power. In 2017, freshman Rep. Leslie Herod took up the issue in the Colorado General Assembly, and is the prime House sponsor of House Bill 17-1313.

This legislation would not reform the civil asset forfeiture system in Colorado to the extent activists on the issue would prefer. The bill would require better reporting by police agencies on asset forfeiture and require that small-dollar forfeiture cases use a more rigorous state procedure than the more permissive federal law. It would lead to a better understanding of how asset forfeiture is used in Colorado, and set the stage for reducing abuse of the program in the future.

State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said lawmakers worked with district attorneys and other stakeholders to create the legislation. There were just a handful of “no” votes for the bill and Herod — one of the legislation’s main proponents — called it “extremely frustrating” that there is so much opposition now.

She also noted that the bill’s legislative process included testimony from people about problems with forfeiture process in Colorado and added that the legislation has public support, including from people who have sent notes to Hickenlooper urging him to make it law.

Politically, this is an issue that could be very advantageous to politicians who come down on the side of not taking property from innocent people. Defenders of law enforcement run into trouble very quickly trying to explain how residents can lose their property without being charged with a crime, and resort to threats of harm done from loss of these seized assets to law enforcement programs as a way to justify the status quo.

But if the money is not rightfully theirs, it doesn’t matter what it’s spent on. To voters this is a no-brainer.

Colorado Week in Review: 4/7/17