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Sheriffs not legal eagles

Published January 27, 2013 5:52 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a retired Utah law enforcement officer, I am concerned by recent stories about the Utah Sheriffs Association warning to the Obama administration regarding gun laws ("Utahns dare federal government to enforce gun control," Tribune, Jan. 20). Their spokesman, Summit County Sheriff Edmunds, stated that as constitutional officers they won't follow laws they deem unconstitutional.

As a peace officer, I enforced laws I didn't particularly agree with. As a sworn officer, it wasn't my decision to determine constitutional validity. The Constitution lays out a clear process for determining what passes the constitutionality test, and it's not the local sheriff.

If one looks back to the civil rights movement, many sheriffs in the United States chose not to enforce laws protecting the rights of African-American citizens. If we allow each state and county to decide what is constitutional, we end up with anarchy, not democracy.

It is a very slippery slope for a law enforcement agency to publicly state it can determine the constitutionality of laws its members swore to enforce. That example may haunt their field officers when citizens aggressively challenge an officer on laws they don't support.

Ray Corbin

Marsing, Id.