Two columns, here and here, sketch some history of the office of sheriff and provide findings from a survey of about 500 current sheriffs. From the 1600s in the colonial era, electing sheriffs was a way to dilute the power of British rulers. In the South, sheriffs were often the main enforcers of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow. On the western frontier, “Sheriffs often served as the first or only law enforcement representatives as settlers engaged in the genocide of Native Americans and Mexican citizens.” According to the survey, today’s sheriffs tend to be conservative, tough on immigration, opposed to restrictions on gun ownership, and to blame the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th mainly on social media companies and Antifa. They were more than twice as likely to agree rather than disagree that “The sheriff’s authority supersedes the federal or state government in my county.”

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