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SHERIFFS NEED TO TAKE THE LEAD
By Jim R. Schwiesow
It has come to my attention that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has set up a militia to help deal with the increasing crime problems in his jurisdiction wrought by an ever increasing flood of illegal aliens. Sheriff Arpaio ought to be commended for his on going efforts in behalf of the law-abiding citizens of Maricopa County. Maybe in Arizona this will be the case, and he will receive the support of the local politicians and that of those whom he has sworn to protect. But the chances are much more likely that if he has not already undergone an all out serious assault on his character and integrity by a cadre of political hacks, jealous professional rivals and bleeding hearts he most probably will. To be successful and effective is to invite censure and reproach from political cretins and apostate associates. Let me tell you how I know this.
In late 1999, as Sheriff of Sioux County, I set up an armed militia, or as it is more likely to be called, a Sheriff’s Posse. Y2K was rapidly approaching and I reasoned that in the event that major civil disorder should occur, and cause something of the nature that we witnessed in New Orleans, we should have an armed force ready to help oversee the safety and welfare of the people in my county. I already knew what the people of New Orleans learned, that the feds couldn’t be trusted to differentiate between criminal marauders and law-abiding citizens.
The statutes of the State of Iowa provide the authority for the sheriffs' of the state to summon the power of the county, and to deputize citizens to assist them in carrying out their duties. I had in my county 400 solid citizens to whom I had issued concealed weapons permits. I knew these people and trusted them implicitly. Each of these individuals had undergone a thorough criminal background check and they were of unimpeachable character. Sensing that I had a great pool of armed and intelligent people to select from, I contacted these permit holders, both men and women, and asked if they would be willing to serve as members of a sheriff's posse.
Except for a handful of elderly citizens who heart brokenly told me that they felt they were too old to function effectively as a posse member, all of those whom I contacted accepted willingly and with enthusiasm. I advised those who felt that their more advanced age would prohibit their service that there were many things that they could do beside just carry a gun and confront outlaws, and they signed up also. Now all hell broke loose, but before I get into that I want to give you some additional background.
I have served forty-three years in law enforcement. And if you count three years as a military policeman in the occupying forces in post war Berlin, Germany I have a total of forty-six years of law enforcement service. I served fifteen years as a municipal police officer, and then I ran for the office of county sheriff, and was elected. In 1977 I was sworn in to the first of seven consecutive four-year terms of office. During my twenty-eight years as sheriff I was able to build an office of considerable stature with capabilities and abilities, which had been heretofore lacking in the office. In 1979 I was elected “Iowa Sheriff of the Year” by the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, and I served for eight consecutive years as a governor's appointee to the Iowa Board of Corrections. The solid reputation of the office was widely known, and I received yearly hundreds of inquiries and requests for applications for positions on the staff. All of this counted for nothing when the crap hit the fan over my formation of a sheriff's posse.
Anyone familiar with county level politics will tell you that if a county officer succeeds and makes his office one of admiration and respect this will almost always engender the animosity and jealousy of other county offices, and particularly that of the county board of supervisors, or as they are called in some states the board of commissioners. I can truthfully say that there was never a time during my entire twenty-eight years as sheriff that the board of supervisors did not consider me to be other than an enemy to be dominated and controlled. They used every imaginable tactic throughout the entirety of my service to impede, denigrate and hold back the progress of my office. The more accolades the sheriff's office received for service and excellence the worse the envy and animosity became. The only thing that saved my political hide during my first five terms in office was that my office was very effective in protecting the lives, rights and property of the citizens and therefore had excellent public support. We will see that this also changed through the years as the ethics and morals of the new generation transmuted. But, while this public support held and was consistent the board had to be covert and underhanded in their effort to undermine the sheriff's office.
Their chance finally arrived with my formation of a sheriff's posse. And they immediately seized their opportunity to vilify the sheriff. In open board meetings, with media present, they never missed a chance to refer to me as a wild-eyed and dangerous nutcase who was assembling a lynch mob. They would invite me to their meetings on the pretense of discussing office issues, and then call the TV stations with anonymous tips that something big was going on with the sheriff's office that was worthy of media coverage. When I would arrive at the meetings, invariably the TV cameras would be already in place. The pretext use to lure me to the meeting would be forgotten, and board members would bait me with inflammatory comments. And then as the TV cameras rolled and the reporters scribbled frantically on their pads the good times would roll, for all, of course, but me. They said in one of their meetings that, "I had left the farm." Meaning of course that because I was concerned enough to plan for the safety of the citizens in the county by assembling a Sheriff’s Posse that I had taken leave of my senses.
These events generated media frenzy and the comments made by board members were appearing in publications from coast to coast. The Wall Street Journal, for whom I had previously had some respect, ran a demeaning article, in which they highlighted the board's "left the farm" comment, on their front page. The media sensationalism and hysteria became so intense that my heretofore-public support began to wane and dissipate. The Board was elated and poured it on with intensity. Every comment that I made to the media was either taken out of context or edited. I was almost always misquoted and the so-called news articles in the area papers were no more than biased editorials by young and dumb reporters. I finally quit making comments and public statement, and I refused to meet with, or talk to, the print or electronic media people. Mind you all of this because I cared enough about the people, whom I served, to want to protect them and ensure their safety and secure their constitutional rights in times of crisis.
But the board wasn't through with me yet. They smelled blood in the water, and like the sharks that they were they intensified their smear campaign and morphed it into a crusade to get rid of me. They surreptitiously approached my staff people and were able to assemble from among them a cadre of disloyal deputies to help them with their cause. I was inundated with union grievances, and there were many outright and deliberate violations of my administrative policies. It became so bad that I had to demote an administrative Lieutenant and reassign him to patrol duty. The board immediately took up his cause, and once again the media frenzy was re-ignited. The board entertained the deputy at their meetings and commiserated with him in open meetings to which I had not been invited.
Interviews with the Lieutenant were set up during which he actually cried in front of the TV cameras. He unashamedly blubbered that the reduction in his salary was starving his family, this even though he was making $50,000.00 a year plus $21,000.00 in benefits after his demotion. The bleeding hearts were all over me despite the fact that the Iowa Code made provision for just such a demotion. By statute the sheriff has the right to politically appoint his first two deputies and the appointments, if made, may be withdrawn without cause. I had cause, but this made little difference as the people, were beginning to believe, due to a pattern of frequent repetition, the manure being shoveled by the board, the media and the shameless deputy.
There is a lesson to be learned from this, the media is never interested in the truth of a matter or even in an impartial probe of the facts of a situation. They thrive on controversy and sensationalism and will go to great lengths to promote it if it is not present. They choose a side and then expend all of their energy making sure that their side wins in the realm of public opinion. They never used my name in a sentence without preceding it with the word controversial. I was routinely referred to as, “controversial sheriff Jim Schwiesow”. We have been programmed to be a nation of sheep and the concept of justice is now completely warped. People will cry and sob over the plight of criminals, killers, prison inmates, and insubordinate employees, and ignore the damage inflicted by these people.
Thirty years ago people would have looked at the circumstances of my situation, said hogwash and moved on with their lives. Now, however, the continual caterwauling and carrying on took root in gullible minds and enabled the board and the local party officials to promote the candidacy of the disloyal and shame deficient former Lieutenant for a run for the sheriff's office. The problem was that I still had a year and a half to serve on my term of office. If they were to be rid of me this had to be dealt with.
One day one of the board members called me and asked me to meet him in a restaurant in a town situated in a neighboring county. I was suspicious, but could not resist hearing of what kind of further skullduggery the board was up to. After some phony preliminaries, this supervisor got down to business and made a proposal that he felt I wouldn't be able to resist. He told me that the board would be willing to buy out the remaining year and a half of my term of office for $150,000.00. I said to him that I believed this to be illegal, and he replied that the board had consulted the county attorney (another story here) and that she had informed them that it was entirely legal. In order to ascertain if he was acting on behalf of the entire board I asked him to put it in writing.
The following day he appeared at my office and asked to speak with me privately. He had with him a handwritten proposal the content of which was that the board would pay me $150,000.00 either in one lump sum or in installments if I would resign my position as sheriff. The supervisor advised that the board would make a public release stating that I would be a paid (but inactive) consultant in exchange for the money. I said to the man, "Let me get this straight, you are willing to soak the taxpayers of this county an extra $150,000.00 by paying me and a newly appointed sheriff a total of $300,000.00 over the next year and a half?" He replied, with a look on his face, which was supposed to make me believe that my statement had hurt his feelings, that they were just being kind and offering me an early retirement package. I said, "Sure you are, now I’ll tell you what I am going to do, I'm going to serve out every day of every week of every month of my term of office." And with that we parted company, but not before he said to me, "You are being foolish, you could have used the money to buy that land in Arizona which you want."
So there you have it, a sad true tale of the sheriff who wanted to set up a militia to provide for the safety and well being of those he had sworn to protect. I might add that I did set up a militia, despite the board of supervisors and despite a stupidly hostile media. I had calls from states attorneys and sheriffs' from across the country with statements of support and inquiries as to the language of the state law, which allowed me to do so.
The last time I did a google search there were many, many pages documenting the results of my assertion of my right to assemble a militia. But, after eight long wearying years of being pummeled by the jackasses on the board and the jackasses in the media I had simply had enough, I retired. The disloyal and faithless former Lieutenant, whom the board could control and direct, was elected sheriff and is currently mired in some controversy of his own. A controversy not born of a commitment to that which is right or for dedication to his constituents, but a controversy wrought by ineptitude and the inability to control his staff.
And what of the Sheriff’s Posse, does it still exist? Now, you know better than that don’t you. Of course you do. The Posse was disbanded forthwith by a sheriff not beholden to his constituents, but to five elected potentates possessed of no other qualifying attributes than being of age and having an innate sense of their own importance.
© 2006 - Jim R. Schwiesow - All Rights Reserved
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Jim Schwiesow is a retired sheriff with 46 years of law enforcement service. He served with the Unites States Army with the occupation forces in post war Berlin, Germany, and has a total of nine years of military service, which includes six years in the U.S. Army Reserve.
His law enforcement service includes: three years in the military police, fifteen years as an Iowa municipal police officer, and twenty-eight years as the duly elected sheriff of Sioux County, Iowa.
Jim has written a number of articles, which have been published in various professional law enforcement journals.
In late 1999, as Sheriff of Sioux County, I set up an armed militia, or as it is more likely to be called, a Sheriff’s Posse. Y2K was rapidly approaching and I reasoned that in the event that major civil disorder should occur, and cause something of the nature that we witnessed in New Orleans, we should have an armed force ready to help oversee the safety and welfare of the people in my county.