In 1989 the Sheriff's Association, the biggest spending political lobby in the state, succeeded in getting the legislature to pass a law that bans their electoral competition. The only people who are allowed to run for leadership of county law enforcement are current and recent law enforcement employees. For the first time in our nation's history, members of the government itself have been granted exclusive privilege in the electoral process. While Supreme Court precedent requires that election laws be designed to facilitate accurate representation of the will of The People, this law is designed to limit the views that The People are allowed to express, and in the most audacious fashion: no civilian viewpoints allowed! Our democracy has been usurped.
In March I sued the state for ballot access in the race for sheriff of Santa Clara County. Judge James T. Ford ruled that, since there is diversity of opinion within law enforcement, no one's first amendment rights to political representation and participation are harmed in any way by the ban on civilian candidates. That is like saying women's first amendment rights would not be injured in any way if they were not allowed to run for office because there is diversity of opinion among men. What about those who would be leaders, who have found the solutions and would win the elections?
I have studied and written on criminal law for years and have unique leadership to offer. For instance, if our society would protect liberty directly (by articulating the full ideal of protected liberty) instead of indirectly (by placing restrictions on law enforcement) we could untie the hands of the police while greatly improving the protection of liberty. (See Reframing our System of Liberty for details.)
Another way to crack down on crime while increasing liberty is to protect gun-rights. State law devolves on police chiefs and county sheriffs the power to issue gun permits, yet throughout the Bay Area, top law enforcement officials use this power, not to pursue the constitutionally stated desideratum of "a well regulated militia," but to annihilate gun rights through blanket denial of gun permit applications.
It is the perfect campaign issue--the most misunderstood issue in America. No one has more reason to be in favor of gun rights than those who want nothing to do with guns. The criminals don't know who is armed so they are deterred from attacking anyone, reducing the need that anyone has to be prepared to defend themselves, allowing those who want nothing to do with guns to be more secure in that decision.
What a strange idea our current sheriffs have, to think that the way to fight crime is to write "I'm disarmed" on everyone's back. But the law enforcement establishment is bent on a monopoly of arms, just as it is bent on having its electoral monopoly.
The Sheriff's Association is perverse in other ways too. I used to think that the reason for the war on drugs (giving lighter sentences to violent criminals than to people who are not harming anyone but perhaps themselves) was just because our society is a little bit flaky. Now I know that our insane drug laws come, not from The People, but from massive spending by the state's biggest lobby.
The sheriff's, you see, run the jails, where deputies bring down 80 to 90 thousand a year with overtime. Over half the people in the jails are there on drug charges. That is a lot of filthy lucre to protect, and protect it they do. The only proper priority for law enforcement is protection of people and property. For law enforcement itself to lobby for laws that utterly pervert that priority is a pinnacle of moral corruption. This is the immoral force that has successfully usurped an electoral monopoly, the most dire crime possible in a democracy.
No one has more has more appreciation for law enforcement than myself. I have spent years figuring out how to untie the hands of the police and crush crime. But it is no favor to law enforcement to allow its leaders to subvert the proper relation between government and the people.
(Alec Rawls is a self employed carpenter, pursuing a Ph.D. in economics at Stanford University. He is now a write in candidate forsheriff of Santa Clara County.)
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Date Last Modified: 8/27/99
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