Constitutional sheriffs

Karen Heidman is a retired educator and a member of Siouxland Progressive Women.

In the musical sensation of the last decade, a young Alexander Hamilton declared, “I’m not throwin’ away my shot!” That memorable line echoes the sentiments of a group of concerned citizens after the appearance at Western Iowa Tech Community College of right-wing populist activist KrisAnne Hall on March 12.

Ms. Hall, who claims the title of constitutional attorney, appeared at the invitation of Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan, ostensibly to educate his staff and the public on citizens’ rights. She is a frequent guest speaker for the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which claims the proper interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is that only county sheriffs—not the state or federal government—can determine if a law is constitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the organization a hate group.

We share the sheriff’s civic educational motives. However, we believe that if law enforcement officials are going to stray out of their lane, they need to vet speakers to see if they are peddlers of grievance, misinformation, and unrest. This is easily done by an online search of a variety of long-established, reputable sources like the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League, among others.

In other words, look both ways before crossing the civic education street.

It was obvious to this group, after Hall assured us that she was here to show facts and not teach opinions, that she was here precisely to ‘splain the facts as imagined by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Its founder is former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. While on the board of the Oath Keepers, Mack inserted himself between federal agents and supporters of Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy in a 2014 standoff, advising Bundy and his gang to use women and children as human shields!

A clue about Hall’s real intentions came almost immediately, when she asserted that Americans have “lost more liberty in our own hands in the past two years than in the past 150 to invaders.”

Was that a dog whistle to those who denounce Black Lives Matter protesters in the wake of the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, or to efforts by authorities to prevent the spread of the deadliest pandemic in a century?

Attempting to add a patina of inclusion, Hall dropped names of historical figures like Mercy Otis Warren, Crispus Attucks, and Rosa Parks. Know which demographic was not mentioned? Native Americans. She understood that a nod to Native Americans would cause a stir of discomfort (or maybe not) in her audience when she launched into assertions that independence is a function of property ownership, an essential element of self-preservation.

Further, she emphasized, it is the purpose of government to protect your right to obtain property on your own (emphasis ours). Some of us glanced at our Native American friends to see if their heads were exploding!

Another assertion that should give pause to Sheriff Sheehan: a law or order is valid only if we comply. That’s a recipe for a sheriff’s own special hell. Does he think relations between people of color in this community will be improved by knowing the deputy sheriff who stopped them has been trained by the representative of a hate group?

In Hall’s movie, she quotes Abigail Adams: ”The flame is kindled and like lightning we watch as it spreads from soul to soul.” Incendiary rhetoric which may unintentionally engulf Sheriff Sheehan.

Near the beginning of her presentation in Sioux City, Hall asked how many of us think our government is out of control. About a quarter of the audience did not raise our hand. Nevertheless, she pretended in further remarks that we had all agreed.

We do not agree! And we are not throwing away our shot to plead our own case here. We urge everyone, especially elected officials, to do their due diligence when similar situations arise in the future.

Furthermore, we encourage our institutions of higher learning to host forums featuring speakers whose credentials do not include associations with hate groups. And finally, we press our Board of Supervisors not to formalize Woodbury County’s designation as a Constitutional Sheriffs County.

Top photo of Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan and KrisAnne Hall cropped from a photo first published on Hall’s Facebook page.

About the Author(s)

Karen Heidman

  • KrisAnne

    I looked up Kris Anne’s Facebook page. She has140K+ followers. (Better than 14M, I guess.) Yes, she runs a cottage her far right message of property rights (via Constitution). I recently read Lincoln’s 1854 Peoria speech where he argues against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He cites the Declaration of Independence as the real founding document for U S of America. Although he hadn’t firmed up his own feeling about slavery in the South, he was sure allowing farmers to port their human possessions (as they might ferry their hog herds) was a moral injustice. The Nebr. Act allowed local sovereignty over if/whether a state would allow slavery w/i its bounds. I learned about Lincoln’s reverence for the Declaration from Heather Cox Richardson’s History of Republicans, 2014 (Lincoln was the first). I should have learned this in HS.

  • I looked up the Wikipedia entry...

    …on the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (it is “peace” rather than “police,” ironically). The CSPOA logo features an image of a bald eagle head with an oversized beak. Why did they make the beak so big, as if the size really mattered? A few irreverent thoughts come to mind.

    • PrairieFan

      I am so sorry! You are right about the P standing for Peace, not Police. I’m going to use the excuse you gave me–that “Peace” is counterintuitive. Thank you for pointing that out! I am embarrassed, but you have prevented me from being embarrassed elsewhere!

      • No need at all to apologize

        I wanted to make a joke about the big eagle beak. But I really should have just expressed gratitude to you and the other members of Siouxland Progressive Women for what you are doing. Thank you.

    • thanks for catching that

      I have corrected the post.