Law enforcement problems in Colorado


This hasn’t been a great week in the news for Colorado law enforcement.

We learned a few day ago that some 350 inmates had apparently been released early and were at large. It wasn’t that long ago than Evan Ebel was released early by mistake and several weeks later murdered pizza delivery man Nathan Leon and Department of Corrections Director Tom Clemens.

Then this evening there was a story about a problem with the training of all the expensive drug-sniffing dogs used in the state. They’re all trained to detect marijuana along with other drugs, but marijuana is now legal in Colorado. If the dogs alert, handlers don’t know if it’s on marijuana or something else, so they don’t know if they can legally conduct a search. It will be expensive and time-consuming to acquire new dogs that are trained to ignore marijuana. Not a big demand for them.


But the most disturbing story by far is that sheriffs from 54 of the state’s 64 counties are suing to block Colorado’s new laws limiting the size of gun magazines and expanding background checks to private and online gun sales. The laws are set to take effect July 1. The sheriffs contend they are unconstitutional and they will not enforce them. They say its their duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

Now, I know I hold some old-fashioned ideas about things, but I’ve always understood it was the duty of sheriffs to enforce the laws of the state and the counties that elected them and pay their salaries. That’s their job; that’s what they take an oath to do. But now suddenly they’re lawyers or something, deciding which laws they will and won’t enforce. Some have said as much. They will refuse to enforce the new laws because they believe them to be unconstitutional. It may take 54 elections, but those sheriffs can and should be replaced if they won’t enforce the law.

27 thoughts on “Law enforcement problems in Colorado

    1. Unless and until the new Colorado laws are declared unconstitutional, the sheriifs have a duty to enforce them. They dont get to pick and choose which laws they will enforce. If they don’t like the new laws, they are free to resign.

      1. Thanks for running that down, Jim. I found the story so confusing that I just kind of shrugged it off. But the link to the cited “original source” goes to a non-existent Facebook page. Had I done my homework, that should have made me suspicious.

  1. Those are some very shocking details. 350 inmates had apparently been released early and were at large! And 54 of the state’s 64 counties are suing to block Colorado’s new laws limiting the size of gun magazines and expanding background checks to private and online gun sales – oy vey! I think electing Sheriffs is a very strange and risky method of selection. I’m a Canadian and we don’t do that here so I suppose I’m biased.

  2. ImaLibertarian is right when he says, “The law of the land IS the constitution”, but he errs in assuming that the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is obvious. It’s not, if only for that pesky phrase about the militia and if it were that simple, we wouldn’t need lawyers, nor a judiciary. One has only to read the arguments in any Supreme Court case to see how reasonable and intelligent people can differ over the meanings of written laws. Those differences regularly extend not only as to the meanings of words but to trying to parse the grammar and even the intent of the lawmakers who wrote them. Perhaps one of the most memorable examples is William J. Clinton’s ” . . . depends on what the meaning of is is.” That wasn’t mere foolishness, it was pointing out that the meaning of words can have more than one interpretation.

    PT is right. The law is what the system says it is and when the courts have ruled, it must be enforced. When entrusted with enforcement refuse to do so, whether it be law enforcement or the military, then you have anarchy, if not treason.

      1. Still not sure what specific lawsuits you’re talking about, since these links are just Google search results. Have sheriffs in other states also sued someone over laws they don’t want to enforce? Many said they wouldn’t enforce new federal gun laws if they were passed, but they weren’t. I still think it’s outrageous that law enforcement officers say they’ll refuse to enforce laws they believe are unconstitutional. It’s up to the courts, not law enforcement, to decide the constitutionality of a law.

  3. To me, this is just another symptom of the rampant hypocrisy that’s slowly choking our country to death PT. The fact that those 54 sheriffs have chosen to act on this particular “call to conscience” – which comes, no doubt, after years of happily fulfilling their “duty” to harass, arrest, and incarcerate people whose only crimes, their alleged “abuse” of drugs, have harmed pretty much no one but themselves – would be downright laughable if it weren’t so sickening… 😕

    1. Whether it’s “victimless” crimes or the control of deadly weapons, these guys have a duty to enforce our laws as written. It’s not their job to reinterpret the laws according to their own personal beliefs. They are not lawmakers, they are not constitutional lawyers, and they are not judges. As citizens, they are entitled to sue to keep these new laws from going into effect on July 1. But if their suit fails and the laws go into effect, then it becomes their duty as sheriffs to enforce the laws. Those who refuse to do so should be fired. Actually, if their personal principles are that important to them, they should just say they cannot in good conscience enforce the laws and are therefore resigning. I could respect that.

      1. True enough PT, and I’m sure many others would agree that that would be the right thing to do. However, I wonder how many would be willing to apply the same reasoning to, say, members of the military, who are, after all, faced with conflicts of conscience that are as great or greater? As I recall, such stances weren’t very popular at all back in the 70s when I first became concerned about them… 😕

      2. One can’t resign from the military; that’s the difference. When the draft was still in effect, you didn’t have a choice about serving, but there were special provisions for conscientious objectors. Now days the military is voluntary, so if you have objections, you just don’t sign up. Law enforcement is like any other job. You hire on, knowing your job will be to enforce the law whether you agree with it or not. If you decide you don’t like it, you quit or get fired.

        These Colorado sheriffs, however, are elected public officials. They chose to run for office, knowing what the job would be. They were elected by people who expected them to do their jobs. If they no longer intend to do the job, they should resign. I fear, however, that they may be catering to and counting on constituents in their predominantly rural counties to re-elect them. Re-electing law enforcement officials who have said they will not enforce the law is, as Jim said, heading down the road to anarchy.

  4. In reading the complete news story, I noted that Colorado police chiefs are opposed to the sheriffs’ suit and viewpoint. It seems to be a case of the professionals (chiefs) vs. the politicians (sheriffs). I’ll go with the pros every time when that is the choice. Electing sheriffs is a relic of the past that no longer serves any useful purpose. They should be hired by county commissioners just as police chiefs are by city council members.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Almost all Colorado county sheriffs are elected (I think in two counties they are appointed or hired). They may or may not have any experience in law enforcement. And they’ll cater to their constituents to get reelected.

    2. It makes all kinds of sense that police chiefs would want regulation of guns, Dick. I agree with you and PT that mixing politics and law enforcement is bad business. A representative democracy is a fragile thing, eh?

  5. A reblogué ceci sur difference propre and commented:
    Hello, as a french citizen, in reaction, my point of view is more of the libertarian kind.
    Inside of the USA you have different States, then different Counties in there.
    The great power of your democracy, democracies ? , is that it takes place at the bottom first. The independance beetween different kind of power is another great luck that your system offers to its citizens.

    The sheriff is not as good as he should be ? Ok the citizen can dismiss him.
    Anyway if one cannot bear the way that things go in the county or even the state, hey he just have to move on, vote with his feet.

    I live in a centralized state, any place should be ruled the same way by “professionnal” right from the school, “knowing what thing should be administered”, not by politicians listening what the people wants. After 60 years of that regime we can see the limits of “pros” government. They are more and more like “mandarin” from the ancient chinese empire. Less and less democracy seems to take place in our policies.

    So even if I suppose that I would not really like the way your Sheriffs think, the fact is that they are doing the job, taking their responsabilities. Though I hope for you that they will lose their next election.

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