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.
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: