Law enforcement action in state would require notifying counties

State bill puts feds second to sheriffs

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Saturday, March 17, 2012 12:00 am

"Without this, we allow the bureaucrats to dictate and bring their vision of law enforcement down upon the people who are duly elected."

PHOENIX - A state Senate panel has fired a warning shot of sorts over the heads of federal law enforcement agencies: Don't come nosing around these parts unless you get the local OK.

Legislation offered by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would require employees of those agencies to first notify the sheriff of the county "before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state."

The only exception would be if notification would impede the federal officer's duties. But even then, HB 2434 requires notifying the sheriff "as soon as practicable after taking the action."

The proposal took its first step toward becoming a reality Thursday when the Senate Committee on Border Security, Federalism and States Sovereignty voted 5-2 to approve, sending the bill to the full Senate.

Gowan said it's a simple matter of state sovereignty.

"If you look in your Constitution, you will not find there are any police powers granted to the federal government," he said. And Gowan said the 10th Amendment says any powers not given to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people.

"That means the states have the inherent right to use law enforcement,'' he said.

From a practical standpoint, Gowan said the highest elected law enforcement officers in the state are the sheriffs of the 15 counties.

"They have a mandate from the people over bureaucracies," he said, which includes federal agencies. "Without this, we allow the bureaucrats to dictate and bring their vision of law enforcement down upon the people who are duly elected."

Gowan said his legislation would bring back the state's sovereignty "in line with what we need to be to make sure our citizens have all the liberty they can handle."

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said, constitutional philosophy aside, he sees a more practical problem with the legislation.

"Why would a federal agency listen to a local sheriff?" he asked.

"Were telling a federal agency, 'You've got to do this,' " Gallardo continued. "What would prevent a federal agency saying, 'Yeah, thank you, but we'll tell you when we're good and ready to tell you'?"

Gowan told the committee it's because of the state's constitutional authority.

Pressed for specifics after the 5-2 committee vote, Gowan acknowledged there is no actual penalty for a federal agency that refuses to comply, other than the knowledge they are violating state law.

"Do they want that on their conscience or not?" he asked.

Gowan said it would not apply to Border Patrol agents apprehending those who enter this country illegally, as there is inherent authority of the federal government to protect the border. But he said if they are investigating anything else, their authority is inferior to that of the sheriff.

State bill puts feds second to sheriffs