(Note: The Blue sections are from CSPOA's Sheriff Mack and Rick Dalton)
by TJ L’Heureux, Adrienne Washington, Albert Serna Jr., Anisa Shabir and Isaac Stone Simonelli
This project, In the Sheriff We Trust, was produced by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.
The Howard Center is based at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an initiative of the Scripps Howard Fund in honor of the late news industry executive and pioneer Roy W. Howard. AZCIR is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to statewide, data-driven investigative reporting.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Against the background hum of the convention center, Dar Leaf settled into a club chair to explain the sacred mission of America’s sheriffs, his bright blue eyes and warm smile belying the intensity of the cause.
“The sheriff is supposed to be protecting the public from evil,” the chief law enforcement officer for Barry County, Michigan, said during a break in the National Sheriffs’ Association 2023 conference. “When your government is evil or out of line, that’s what the sheriff is there for, protecting them from that.”
Leaf is on the advisory board of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, founded in 2011 by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. The group, known as CSPOA, teaches that elected sheriffs must “protect their citizens from the overreach of an out-of-control federal government” by refusing to enforce any law they deem unconstitutional or “unjust.” It is interesting that you put quotations around the word “unjust”. As if we are the ones who first used that term. Actually, the idea of disobeying or refusing to enforce unjust laws comes from none other than the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King said we have a duty to disobey unjust laws. “I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws,” he wrote.
“Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'” This quote is from the quintessential Civil Rights leader of our time, who was arrested UNJUSTLY by government officials over 30 times. He made this most powerful statement to America while sitting inside a jail. The CSPOA is against what happened to Dr. King and we are against all such atrocities today no matter who the victims are! We train all law enforcement in this country to defend the Civil Rights of all Americans. You seem to advocate the exact opposite.
“The safest way to actually achieve that is to have local law enforcement understand that they have no obligation to enforce such laws,” Mack said in an interview. “They’re not laws at all anyway. If they’re unjust laws, they are laws of tyranny :” The sheriffs group has railed against gun control laws, COVID-19 mask mandates and public health restrictions, as well as alleged election fraud. COVID-19 Mandates and public health restrictions are not laws. Please note, at this point, that it is not only the federal government which has unjust laws and actions that violate the people's rights. You seem to state that we are an anti-federal government group, only. Actually, we seek to interpose to prevent any laws or other types of government actions, including executive orders or other pronouncements, that violate Citizens' rights. We seek to enforce the United States and state constitutions. Rules and policies of the CDC or other State and Federal bureaucracies do NOT supersede the Constitution.
It has also quietly spread its ideology across the country, seeking to become more mainstream in part by securing state approval for taxpayer-funded law enforcement training, the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism found.
Over the last five years, the group has hosted trainings, rallies, speeches and meetings in at least 30 states for law enforcement officers, political figures, private organizations and members of the public, according to the Howard Center’s seven-month probe, conducted in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.
The group has held formal trainings on its “constitutional” curriculum for law enforcement officers in at least 13 of those states. In six states, the training was approved for officers’ continuing education credits. The group also has supporters who sit on three state boards in charge of law enforcement training standards.
Legal experts warn that such training – especially when it’s approved for state credit – can undermine the democratic processes enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and is part of a “broader insurrectionist ideology” that has gripped the nation since the 2020 presidential election. Please explain how we are part of a “broader insurrectionist ideology”” ‘that has gripped the nation since the 2020 presidential election. CSPOA began protecting citizens' rights in 2011, years before J6. And how are we acting as insurrectionists? This is an outrageous claim. Furthermore, who are these so-called experts? Who declared them to be experts? The truth is you found some liberal socialistic professors who you knew would support your thesis, so you claimed they were experts. None of their comments were “data-driven.”
“They have no authority, not under their state constitutions or implementing statutes to decide what’s constitutional and what’s not constitutional. That’s what courts have the authority to do, not sheriffs,” said Mary McCord, a former federal prosecutor and executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University. By the way, CSPOA was urged to attend the January 6th rally and protest. Sheriff Mack and the rest of our leadership decided not to go because of the possibility of illegal action. So, we did not attend and we had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Our leadership was way ahead of the curve on the Jan 6th incident, yet we have been assailed and accused so dishonestly of having been a part of it. This is yet another example of the leftist extremist media who do not care about the truth and intentionally lie to make a point.
“There’s another sort of evil lurking there,” McCord added, “because CSPOA is now essentially part of a broader movement in the United States to think it’s OK to use political violence if we disagree with some sort of government policy.” This is an egregious example of guilt by association and frivolous attacks. You use words like “evil” and you claim we support actions “to use political violence” against people we disagree with. This is intentional defamation, pure and simple and it is totally untrue. You cite not a single CSPOA action or a single word by our national leadership as evidence. This is intentional deception and defamation. You apparently are just scribes for these supposed “experts”, because you apparently didn't ask them for proof of their accusations and innuendos, or if you asked, they didn't have any. You simply did not include any proof of their claims.
At least one state, Texas, canceled credit for the sheriffs’ training after determining the course content – which it said included a reference to “this is a war” – was more political than educational. But other states, such as Tennessee, have approved the training, in part because it was hosted by a local law enforcement agency.
Unlike other law enforcement continuing education, such as firearms training, the sheriffs’ curriculum is largely a polemic on the alleged constitutional underpinnings of sheriffs’ absolute authority to both interpret and refuse to enforce certain laws. One brochure advertising the group’s seminars states: “The County Sheriff is the one who can say to the feds, ‘Beyond these bounds you shall not pass.’” The universally acclaimed principle of Federalism clearly delineates the vertical separation of powers. The federal government is supreme within its sphere of authority delegated by our constitution. Then the state governments are supreme in the myriad of issues that affect the lives of Americans. It must be remembered that the states created the federal government as basically a security guard or watchdog. The County Sheriff is the supreme elected law enforcement authority within the county. Then there is the 10th amendment, and our Mack/Printz v US Supreme court case, which was a landmark decision affirming our position on the role of the States and of the sheriff.
Since 2018, the Howard Center-AZCIR investigation found, at least 69 sheriffs nationwide have either been identified as members of the group or publicly supported it, though at least one later disavowed the organization. A 2021 survey of sheriffs by academic researchers working with the nonprofit Marshall Project found that more than 200 of the estimated 500 sheriffs who responded agreed with the group’s ideology.
Amy Cooter, research director at the Middlebury Institute Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism, said many sheriffs join the group from “a misinformed but well-meaning perspective.” But, she added, it also allows some sheriffs to “potentially engage in extremism by not enforcing legal, lawful, legitimate orders.” This statement is fear mongering. Any person or any group can “potentially” engage in extremism, but where is any evidence that we have engaged in extremist activity? Furthermore, law enforcement uses “police discretion” daily in the execution of their jobs. They choose how to enforce traffic laws. At times, they even choose not to enforce them at all. It has nothing to do with “interpretation” or any kind of extremism whatsoever.
Enforcing the Bill of Rights is NOT dangerous or extremism. It is the Supreme Law of the Land. All three branches are required to uphold and defend them and we have no obligation to go along with those who violate the Bill of Rights, quite the contrary. In your world tyranny wins, in the Constitution’s world, Liberty wins. BTW, the Brady Bill was promulgated by the federal government and it calls the sheriffs the “CLEO's,” Chief Law Enforcement Officers. The U S Supreme Court does likewise in its ruling. Jefferson also said that the sheriff is the chief executive of the county. CSPOA did not make this up. we just study a little history.
Nationwide, there are some 3,000 sheriffs, whose salaries are funded by taxpayers. They serve as the chief law enforcement officers in their counties and are the only elected peace officers in the country. They appoint deputy sheriffs and jailers and service the courts in their jurisdictions. Sheriffs hold immense sway over what happens in their county, especially rural ones. This is true. And it also means that sheriffs have immense responsibilities to do so in a constitutional way, with the main purpose of protecting the rights of the citizens within the county.
Some states have pushed back against the group’s training efforts, and not all sheriffs subscribe to the group’s ideology. Many at the National Sheriffs’ Association conference distanced themselves from the constitutional sheriffs or claimed not to know what they were about.
“When I took an oath 17 years ago as sheriff, I took the oath to uphold the Constitution, not overstep it,” said Troy Wellman, sheriff of Moody County, South Dakota, and a vice president of the National Sheriffs’ Association. Every sheriff who is a member of CSPOA can make the exact same statement. And specifically, what does sheriff Wellman have to say about our “overstep” of the Constitution? Again, you offer no proof from the “experts” whose opinions you highly regard, but do not substantiate.
And there has been public pushback in some counties led by “constitutional sheriffs.” In Klickitat County, Washington, residents alleged Sheriff Bob Songer, a board member of the sheriffs' group, engaged in fearmongering and intimidation. He was the target of a formal complaint in 2022 that the state’s law enforcement standards agency ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Do you intend allow this sheriff to maintain his presumption of innocence? Don't you think you should mention that? And please notice you just validated our claim that the sheriff may not be controlled by anyone but those who elected him, except when he or she may violate the law. Sheriff Songer has hurt no one and has done an outstanding job defending the freedom of all his citizens. What a good man he is!
The public-facing image of the sheriffs' group, which is led by white men, prominently features the American flag and the experiences of Black civil rights icons who pushed back against unjust laws. But details of its operations are closely held, and its finances are shielded from public scrutiny. It was briefly registered as a nonprofit in Arizona, but internal records indicate it is now a private company.
The group does not release its list of dues-paying members, nor does it publicize information about where or how it conducts trainings. The sympathies of the group’s leaders for right-wing, white-nationalist extremist causes, however, are well documented. What an absurd lie! If our sympathies are so well documented, why don't you list them and give examples of our statements that indicate such sympathies? And as one of the leaders, I am insulted by your unfounded and dishonest assertions that or our other leaders are white supremacists. So, what about me? And before you embarrass yourself, let me just tell you that I have photographs of my family that I will show you or send to you which I will put that unfounded insult too bed.
Mack was an early board member of the Oath Keepers, the group involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Although he said he split with the group several years ago when it became a militia, Mack still speaks at Oath Keeper-affiliated rallies. When and where and with what groups? When was the last time sheriff Mack spoke at an Oathkeeper-affiliated rally? The picture you show is yet another dishonest attempt by you so-called journalists to sway public opinion instead of reporting the truth.
Mack quit the Oathkeepers in 2016. Since then, he never went to a single event of theirs. The picture you showed of him speaking with an Oathkeeper sign in the background belonged to a Yavapai county group who also left the Oathkeepers even before Sheriff Mack did. It was not a meeting held by Mack or the Oathkeepers, it was altogether a different freedom group who invited Sheriff Mack to speak. He had nothing to do with who attended or groups who set up tables. Once again you showed your extreme bias and lack of concern for the truth. You intentionally framed your photo to intimate that Sheriff Mack was still involved with Oathkeepers when the truth is he absolutely was not. Furthermore, you have recklessly and retroactively lumped Mack and CSPOA with OKers due to their involvement in DC on January 6, 2021. Before Jan. 6th, they had committed no crimes and had no problems with the law. You are assailing Mack and others by using Jan 6th for your justification of branding Sheriff Mack. Mack quit them five years earlier and so did most OKer state associations, including the one in Arizona.
Leaf was investigated, but not charged, in connection with the Michigan attorney general’s investigation into the alleged illegal seizure and breach of vote-counting machines in 2020. He also appeared at an election-denier rally with two men later charged in the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. So that means he was in the audience? Did he speak at this rally? And what was the result of the two men being charged? Were they convicted? You seem to be very comfortable with making accusations by innuendo, without proof. I am not a expert on journalism, but I don't think that's what ”data-driven” journalism is supposed to look like.
Michael Peroutka, another sheriffs group board member and former candidate for Maryland’s attorney general, was once affiliated with the League of the South, which supports “a free and independent Southern republic.” At a 2019 sheriffs’ training event, he said, “There is a creator God. Our rights come from him. The purpose of civil government is to secure and defend God-given rights.” And what is wrong with that statement? I believe in that statement and so does the national leadership CSPOA as do a large majority of Americans.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” Thus, our government was instituted to secure our God-given Civil Rights. Your opposition to these principles explains why you are attacking us.
Jon Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, described the sheriffs group as “insidious” and said it had become “mainstream standard-bearers for entrance into more violent forms of extremism.” This is defamation pure and simple. And we will not sit idly by and accept it. Again, you offer extremist opinions from a complete stranger and nobody. We challenge him, you, Mary McCord, and any of your other “experts” to an open and public debate, any time and any place. We have made this challenge to many of our detractors and all of them have refused.
“Just because it’s not as overt in their subversion of the democratic system, just because it’s quieter about how it does it and what it’s calling for, doesn’t make the ideas any less dangerous,” said Lewis.
Two heart attacks. Plans for a book about sheriffs and the pandemic. And a new board position at the right-wing political organization America’s Frontline Doctors. These were the reasons Mack cited in November 2022 for stepping down as head of daily operations for the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, records show.
Mack tapped far-right radio personality Sam Bushman to replace him as chief executive officer, though Mack remains board chairman and retains all authority.
Bushman runs Liberty News Radio, which syndicates white-supremacist programs across the country, including the pro-Confederate show Political Cesspool, which hosted former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke as recently as May 20, 2023. He declined to answer reporters’ written questions.
“What we really need to do is scale up our training. That’s who we are, that’s what we do. And the need for it has never been greater,” Bushman said during a January 2023 board meeting. You have now seen our training and miraculously you found nothing with which to malign our purposes, or you certainly would have done so. Why is it you didn't even mention the training you attended which is basically the same training we give around the country?
Most law enforcement officers are required to participate in taxpayer-funded, continuing education to stay current on their certifications. Training typically focuses on keeping officers sharp in a number of skill sets, including using firearms and encountering mental health situations. It's pretty sad that you think you can use a statement that is partially true and expect people to believe it's the whole truth. There are so many other topics covered in training in the Academy and inservice training, that you apparently know nothing about. Police ethics, Constitutional law, and the purpose of law enforcement are all important topics covered in law enforcement training. But you wouldn't know that.
To track the spread of the sheriffs group, the Howard Center filed public records requests with state law enforcement standards boards in 48 states and several sheriffs’ offices, related to the group’s training and communications with officials from 2018 to 2023. The latest records received were from early June 2023.
In that time, the sheriffs group conducted training in at least 13 states. In at least five of those states, the training received continuing education credit, and in six of them the states’ training regulation board approved the sheriffs’ curriculum. An internal November 2022 email shows the sheriffs group claimed its training had been approved for accreditation in seven states. And with all your sleuthing, did you talk to any law enforcement officers who had actually attended our training? We have dozens of surveys that we collect from our attendees that we would be happy to share with you.
Made with Flourish
Reporters also found that members and affiliates of the sheriffs group sit on the law enforcement regulatory boards in Arizona, Florida and Maine. These state training boards determine what officers are taught and which law enforcement philosophies to adopt. In Florida, board approval is required for training to receive continuing education credit.
Lessons must be certified by a state’s training board in order for officers to receive credit in at least 30 states, reporters found, but approval is not necessary for official credit in at least 16 states. The laws pertaining to oversight of law enforcement trainings vary across states, according to a review of the law enforcement standards and training oversight agencies in each state and the District of Columbia.
Mack claimed in a November 2022 conference call that his organization had trained close to 1,000 sheriffs nationwide, in addition to an unspecified number of deputies, undersheriffs and police chiefs.
Experts caution such figures can be inflated. But, as Mack noted, it is nearly impossible to know how many deputies have learned about the organization’s philosophy through someone who attended a training.
Leaf, the 58-year-old Michigan sheriff, said he brings back to his command what he learns during the sheriffs’ training because “it’s very important I have my sergeants on board with my philosophies.”
The recordings of the sheriffs’ advisory board meetings make clear that a new strategy has emerged focused on holding trainings near where board members are based, thus minimizing the travel needed to conduct them. Bushman said they would like to see active members, including board members and sheriffs, conduct those trainings in their locales.
Gaining state-sponsored accreditation also remains a focus of the group, board discussions show.
“We can scale up more of these events to get out more training faster. It takes certifications in the states to do that,” Bushman said in a January meeting.
The group’s then-national director of administration, Tonya Benson, said in a November 2022 email to board members and supporters that “the more states we can get approval and accreditation for the curriculum, the better.” She added: “The best way to get approval is for a ‘friendly’ sheriff to submit the request.”
Experts say the formal trainings give the sheriffs’ ideas a facade of authority, as well as provide an opportunity to reach a greater target audience: law enforcement officials. Who are these experts, and what is their expertise? Experts also say to beware of dishonest journalists.
“If I’m a young police officer, and I have somebody standing in front of me, you know, in a law enforcement uniform, telling me the law, that I’m allowed to interpret the law the way I choose or the way he suggests, how am I supposed to believe that that’s improper if that person is duly certified under the state authority?” asked Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program, who spent 16 years as an FBI agent. What is Mr. German’s expertise in the area of law enforcement training, and what is his expertise in our philosophy, which you have misstated and twisted in most of this article? Is German against the FBI monitoring and illegally wiretapping Martin Luther King? Has he, as the expert, ever pointed out the atrocious illegal activities of the FBI and other Federal agencies? What would be his expert opinion of such?
“It validates their false information in a way that will make it harder for rank-and-file officers to resist it,” German said, adding that when law enforcement officers are “allowed to interpret the law as they see fit, the chances for error and abuse go way up.” Again, you have mischaracterized our position on nullification. Is it ever dangerous for the courts to interpret the law as they see fit? What is the answer when they do?
Despite its spread, the group has faced pushback in some states, including in Texas, where it claimed in December 2021 to have trained about one-fifth of the state’s 254 sheriffs.
After news reports revealed the extent of the group’s involvement with Texas sheriffs, the state agency that regulates law enforcement training investigated and then banned future constitutional sheriffs’ trainings for credit.
The group’s training was “best categorized as political discourse,” the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement wrote in a May 26, 2023, letter to Mack.
In Illinois, where roughly 90% of the state’s sheriffs vowed not to enforce the state’s new ban on semiautomatic weapons, a state official declined to give officers credit for the constitutional sheriffs’ training, saying the material wasn’t filed early enough and the state already taught constitutional concepts. Yet, 90% of the IL sheriffs stood against their own Governor! That is a tremendous success for us all.
Nebraska’s Police Standards Advisory Council told reporters it would not certify the sheriffs group’s training because it considered the group to be a political organization and the agency avoids any such affiliation.
Even so, trainings don’t need approval in Nebraska, and the state’s sheriffs may independently partner with the constitutional sheriffs group.
That’s what happened in Tennessee. That state’s law enforcement standards board must approve training for credit, but officials also said they approve trainings hosted by local sheriff’s offices, regardless of content.
“We just have to find the right sheriff or right person who can… kind of push that through,” Benson, the group’s national director of administration, said in a January board meeting recording. “It’s kind of a simple process. It just takes someone to kind of babysit it, hound dog it, and be on top of it to get the approval.”
Lt. Joseph Gill, director of training for Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee, became the right person. A July 11, 2023, training was approved by Tennessee’s law enforcement commission, as required for accreditation. “It wasn’t really a training, I mean, he (Richard Mack) just came and spoke,” said Max Milam, a training specialist in the sheriff’s office.
The Tennessee approval came despite the fact that the sheriffs group had declined to provide its presentation materials. Instead, it provided an outline comparing its philosophy with that of civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
“Civil disobedience has an honorable tradition in the United States,” German noted. “But the government’s not allowed to engage in civil disobedience. And, as government officials, they actually have a duty to comply with the law.” That means a law which is in compliance with the US constitution. And the doctrine of nullification has been used from the time of Thomas Jefferson right up until today. But the government sure got involved in arresting those involved in civil disobedience. If we are to ever learn from history, we need to be certain that such government abuses never happen again. The CSPOA does just that.
Washington state has been the scene of the most organized pushback against the sheriffs group, reporters found. During their 2021-2022 legislative session, lawmakers empowered Washington’s police oversight agency to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their affiliations with extremist groups. The agency must now expand required background checks to include any extremist affiliations and revoke an officer’s license for misconduct.
“I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say that when we’ve got folks now literally with the power to kill someone that we should expect them to adhere to very high standards of behavior, of impartiality,” said Jamie Pedersen, a state senator from Seattle who sponsored the new law. The doctrine of nullification is impartial. It's just that those who interpose do so impartially against any and all violators of constitutional rights, whether they be in the form of private criminal organizations or rogue government officials in any level of government. The rights of the citizens will be protected against any and all attackers. We also ask what the danger is posed to society when the Press intentionally and routinely distorts the truth?
Internal working group emails revealed the challenges in developing a workable definition of domestic “extremism.” Regulators agreed such groups seek “to undermine the democratic process” through violence or intimidation or promote the idea that their interpretation of the law “supersedes those of any other federal, state, or local authority.” Where in any of our training materials or our public speaking have we promoted anything of the sort? This is like the evils of civil asset forfeiture, where for example, if a kid borrows his grandmother's car and, without her knowledge or approval uses it to conduct a criminal act or a drug deal, and is apprehended, the law enforcement agency seizes the grandma's car because it was used in a crime, and will not give it back to her, the innocent third party, even though they don’t ever charge, let alone convict her, of a crime. We are actively interceding and working with other groups to intercede and bring back the protections of due process of law.
“One of our issues was, beyond the Patriot Front and Proud Boys and Klan members and all of that, was the CSPOA,” Olympia attorney Leslie Cushman said, referring to the sheriffs group. Cushman helped advise legislators on behalf of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, a group of advocates and people who have lost loved ones to police violence.
“Of grave concern is the relationship of the CSPOA to the Oathkeepers,” Cushman wrote in a March 3, 2022, email to the working group. Supposedly what is the relationship that we have with oath keepers? It's been six or seven years since Sheriff Mack severed the relationship completely. Her statement, without any evidence, is reckless and possibly, along with your quoting it, without any evidence. It is libel and obvious defamation.
The sheriffs group had made inroads in Washington state in early 2021 when it hosted two events there.
In February 2022, the state’s law enforcement training commission received a complaint from a group of unnamed residents about Songer, the Klickitat County sheriff since 2014. It alleged instances in which Songer amplified “baseless rumors” about anti-racism activists and used a local radio show to name people critical of his policies.
Songer also created a “posse” of nearly 150 citizen volunteers, and he told the federal government in 2021 to “stay out of our county” after the Justice Department called on the FBI to work with federal prosecutors on threats of violence against school officials.
The complaint cited Songer’s alleged support for extremist organizations, such as Patriot Prayer, which rallies with members of Proud Boys; and the People’s Rights Network, founded by Ammon Bundy, who led a 40-day long standoff with federal authorities in 2016. CSPOA was urged to join in the occupation of that federal building. We stood and said no and tried everything in our power to talk them out of there. You may have missed this, but Bundy was actually found not guilty in a Portland court and later charges were thrown out by a Nevada judge because the FBI had fabricated so much evidence.
Songer confirmed he attended meetings for People’s Rights Network and Patriot Prayer, but said he didn’t know Patriot Prayer had ties to Proud Boys.
“Having an extreme-right organization dictate to our local county official, it puts a stamp of approval on, you know, discrimination and racism,” said Lynn Mason, a Klickitat County resident who campaigned against Songer during his 2022 reelection bid.
The Washington commission later determined that “the issues raised (in the complaint) were not within” its jurisdiction and said “no further action will be taken.” Innocent until proven guilty? Or guilty by implication?
Klickitat County resident Lynn Mason, shown here at a public park in White Salmon, Washington, frequently speaks out against Sheriff Bob Songer because of his involvement with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
Klickitat County resident Lynn Mason, shown here at a public park in White Salmon, Wash., frequently speaks out against Sheriff Bob Songer because of his involvement with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. She campaigned against Songer during his reelection in 2022. Photo by Isaac Stone Simonelli | AZCIR what is the implication of this statement, when in fact, there are many people who praise the CSPOA as well as some who don't like us. Apparently, more people supported the sheriff, who was reelected.
The state’s new extremism law applies to “certified” law enforcement officers. County sheriffs are elected officials and not all have gone through the law enforcement certification process. Members of Songer’s posse are also excluded from the law because they don’t have to be certified.
“They can be an enormous vigilante group,” Cushman said. “I know people in Klickitat County, Skamania and Clark County are intimidated and afraid to speak up.” A County Sheriff or a sheriff's posse by definition cannot be a vigilante group. An “enormous vigilante group.” Name one time that has ever happened!
Bushman has said that one of his key aims as the group’s new operational leader is to increase the number of state directors who report to him.
But in recent months, there’s been an exodus of the group’s leaders and top supporters. Half of the eight-member advisory board has resigned, and one of the group’s state directors complained the organization “is struggling to remain relevant.”
Internal records indicate that the dispute with America’s Frontline Doctors may have played a role.
In November, the founder of the doctors’ group – a convicted Jan. 6 protester – named Mack along with other board members in a lawsuit that alleged “financial improprieties.” In April, the doctors’ group issued a press release saying it had removed Mack from the board and reported him to local police for allegedly embezzling $350,000 from the organization’s bank account. Police closed the case four weeks later, saying the organization did not provide sufficient documentation to prove a crime had been committed.
The 70-year-old former sheriff said in an interview that he simply moved funds to another of the doctors group’s accounts to protect the organization’s finances. He claimed to have been dropped as a named defendant in the lawsuit, but the most recent court filings in the case don’t support that.
Mack also indicated that some of the sheriffs on his board were unhappy with him and Bushman, but did not further elaborate.
“The CSPOA, since COVID hit, has grown exponentially,” Bushman said during the November 2022 board meeting in which he was named to succeed Mack. “This is an attempt to carry forward Richard Mack’s legacy. This is a growth effort.”
A review of internal meetings and Mack’s weekly webinars show there were at least six state directors in Texas, Virginia, Utah, Arizona and California, though at least one has left the group since June 2023.
Bushman said he had a plan to increase that figure to between 30 and 40 by the end of 2023. According to recordings of the group’s meetings, increasing the number of state directors could help the organization solicit formal credit for its trainings in more states.
The group’s California state director, Jack Frost, also suggested during the November meeting that the group focus on creating a template for conducting voter fraud investigations because “I don’t think our sheriffs and our investigators have a clue what they need to do.”
Internal meeting agendas and recordings, obtained under Public Information Act requests, showed that the sheriffs group planned to partner ahead of the 2024 elections with True the Vote, a right-wing Texas nonprofit that challenged the legitimacy of the last presidential election.
A February 2023 meeting agenda said the two organizations were working to create a “template for comprehensive and effective voter and election integrity” investigations. Discussion of collaboration was listed on the board’s April 2023 meeting agenda. But by May, when the group held four meetings, there was no discussion of elections.
“We would love to continue to work with them on mutual concerns, but it appears that they’re too busy,” Mack told reporters.
While sheriffs offices’ are sometimes asked to assist election officials in investigating allegations of election fraud, a growing number of sheriffs have claimed broad authority to launch voter fraud investigations. The County Sheriff is a law enforcement officer and has a duty to investigate alleged criminal activity. This is not vigilantism. All crime is investigate no matter where it comes from.
McCord, the Georgetown law professor, likened such sheriffs’ actions to “vigilantism.” What is Mr. Mccord's definition of vigilantism? Did you ask him? Perhaps you might wanna put the definition in. Because the sheriff's investigation into any possible crime, it's done with authority given by the voters who elected the sheriff.
“This is almost like a sheriff being willing to engage in vigilantism, which sends a broader message that vigilantism is actually acceptable. And vigilantism, when it is against the government, is insurrection,” McCord said. Once again this is a fraudulent claim, because the sheriff has a duty to investigate and prosecute criminal activity, including when it involves elections.
The group’s effort to train more law enforcement officers also increases the number of them who buy into its constitutional philosophy, creating “conditions for some kind of potential brinkmanship or conflict” between local and state or federal law enforcement, said Lewis, the George Washington University research fellow.
“This is kind of the tipping point,” Lewis said. “Hundreds of sheriffs across the country have gained the trust of their locales and are now sitting in elected office … their training booklets from CSPOA right next to them. And I think that’s always going to be a pretty significant cause for concern.” We have no training booklets or training manuals that we hand out. What are you talking about? We do distribute a copy of the actual synopsis of the Supreme Court case which we won. If you think that is vigilantism or extremism, please quote the parts that you believe are. And my question is why didn't you ask Mr. Lewis what he's talking about regarding a training booklet?
Brendon Derr of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting and Jimmy Cloutier, Heaven LaMartz and Annabella Medina of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism contributed to this story.
This project, In the Sheriff We Trust, was produced by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. The Howard Center is based at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is an initiative of the Scripps Howard Fund in honor of the late news industry executive and pioneer Roy W. Howard. AZCIR is a nonpartisan, nonprofit newsroom that focuses on data-driven investigative journalism.
You conveniently neglected to give a report on the training session you witnessed. You didn't include any quotes or clips from the class. And of course, we know why, because there's nothing you could attack as extremism or white supremacy. Furthermore, you did not include a single quote from the decision, which is Mack’s calling card issue. It is the foundation of the CSPOA and the basis of what we do. Do your “experts” believe that our nation’s law enforcement should be familiar with and enforce this most powerful and sheriff-oriented SCOTUS ruling.
Note: We have over a hundred CSPOA training surveys from a few of our Texas seminars. The following are a few comments from sheriffs, deputies, judges, and county commissioners who attended these sessions: (Respondent's surveys are anonymous, so they can candidly express their true reactions.)
• Knowledge of Constitution and Oath of Office was outstanding, Great Presentation
• More Law Enforcement Should Attend
• The training was very informative and the Instructors knew their topics very well. More County Commissioners should be here
• Great Course, glad I was invited
• I will make another Course in the future.
• We need more trainings just like this
• More elected officials and high schools should have this
• I would like to have the CSPOA come to my county and have this class
• This is a commonsense approach to the Constitution
• Instructor's vast knowledge, great training!
• Only improvement to this training would be to give it more often
• Very good, informative class
• We need to teach this to the younger people
• George Washington was great!
• Very good presentation top to bottom!
• Should be taught to out Texas Regional Sheriffs' Alliance
• Excellent, so glad I attended!