Senator Lee’s recent Senate hearing on the issue was both heartbreaking and eye-opening to many, but Americans in western states have become all too familiar with federal law enforcement scandals, lawlessness, overreach, and over-the-top military-style raids on homes and businesses.
by Marjorie Haun
Utah Senator, Mike Lee, has made his effort to defang federal law enforcement agencies central to the 2018 elections. Although his term is not up until 2022, Senator Lee appears to be using the upcoming primaries and midterm elections to bring attention to what has been a thorn in the sides of local governments throughout the West. Senator Lee has added a page titled, “It’s Time to Abolish Law Enforcement Authority of Public Land Agencies” to his website, and it spells out, in no uncertain terms, his plan to strip law enforcement powers from agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service, and devolving those powers to local and state law enforcement agencies such as sheriff’s offices and state highway patrol agencies.
Senator Lee is one of the few members of Congress bringing attention to a growing list of shocking, often deadly, abuses by federal law enforcement agencies. His recent Senate hearing on the issue was both heartbreaking and eye-opening to many, but Americans in western states have become all too familiar with federal law enforcement scandals, lawlessness, overreach, and over-the-top military-style raids on homes and businesses. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, also from Utah, ran a bill in 2016 with similar goals, but unfortunately it failed to gain traction.
Virtually all federal agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Education, have their own law enforcement divisions. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, these agencies, in effect, turned their law enforcement officers into standing armies, with military weapons and equipment, and powers to investigate, detain, arrest and raid, but without the accountability required of local law enforcement organizations. Some of the most egregious abuses by federal law enforcement officers have taken place in Utah, including the infamous illegal antiquities trade sting, “Operation Cerberus Action,” which ended in the deaths of several men in the Four Corners area, but lead to no indictments and no convictions. Free Range Report has reported extensively on abuses by federal law enforcement bodies.
Senator Lee is soliciting support by asking visitors to sign up and add their names to the list of those supporting his federal law enforcement efforts. He summarizes the issue on the webpage:
It’s Time to Abolish Law Enforcement Authority of Federal Public Land Agencies
As the primary election season in Utah heats up, a common fixture on the sides of Utah’s roads are the various signs from political campaigns. In each county you are likely to find several different signs from those running to serve as the county sheriff as they fight for name recognition. In addition to these signs, candidates will knock doors, hold meetings, and do what is necessary to earn the votes of their county. This kind of political accountability is a necessary ingredient for a law enforcement institution to earn and maintain the public trust it needs to do its job effectively.
For years, those who live in the West have had to endure a growing law enforcement presence within the public land agencies that manage vast swaths of land in Western states. This growth in a federal law enforcement presence has come at the expense of local law enforcement agencies, like county sheriffs, who have seen their authority diminished within their jurisdictions.
In addition to the loss of local control they facilitate, these federal law enforcement programs within public land agencies have become embarrassing examples of abusive power. These programs have become expensive to maintain. Worst of all, they have eroded public trust in federal land management agencies. As these programs are run by career bureaucrats, Americans have no recourse to remove bad actors from office.
As problematic as these law enforcement programs are on the surface, leaked memos and recent court proceedings have revealed that these law enforcement agencies operate from a culture of corruption that has led to heavy-handed and unnecessary enforcement tactics by agents who act as if they are above the law.
If it were necessary to have these law enforcement programs to ensure compliance with federal law, perhaps one could make the argument that they just need to be reformed. However, they serve no purpose that couldn’t already be fulfilled by local sheriff departments and the U.S. Marshals.
Accordingly, I believe Congress should abolish the law enforcement programs within agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and empower local law enforcement to meet the law enforcement needs of communities with abundant federal land.
I will fight for this effort in Congress, but rural communities in the West will need to unite together if we are going to accomplish this.
Senator Lee then asks for your support. You can add your name by clicking on THIS LINK:
Are you willing to join me in this fight? You can help by sharing this page with your friends that live in rural communities in the West and asking them to add their name to the list of rural westerners who are ready to fight for stronger local control in our communities:
Abolish Land Agency Law Enforcement Programs
Let me know if you agree that we should abolish federal land agency law enforcement programs and empower local officials – like the County Sheriff – to enforce the law on public land.
Free Range Report urges you to join Senator Mike Lee in his effort to demilitarize federal land agencies.
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