Richard Mack speaks at a meeting for the Glendale Community College Young Americans for Liberty chapter in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
An extremist, anti-government group that believes sheriffs and police officers have the power to decide which laws to enforce is touring Minnesota next month.
The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has nine Minnesota events planned in October. They’ll be led by Sheriff Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who is also a founder of an extremist group that played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Mack gained notoriety after he was part of a lawsuit that successfully overturned a provision of the Brady Law in the 1990s.
Since then, Mack founded the constitutional sheriffs group and has traveled the country, recruiting law enforcement officers — particularly sheriffs and deputies — to join his movement. Their central tenet, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate legal authority and can refuse to enforce any law they consider unconstitutional. This idea has no basis in law and aligns with so-called sovereign citizens , an anti-government extremist movement that believes they are sovereign from the U.S.
Mack will speak in Le Center, Freeport, Brownton, Champlin, Princeton, Deerwood, Rochester, La Crescent and Blaine, as first reported by the Minnesota news and opinion outlet Bluestem Prairie. Mack did not respond to a request for comment.
The Blaine event is sponsored by the local Republican Party outfit representing outer-ring suburbs northwest of the Twin Cities.
The event in Champlin is being hosted by the Liberty Tea Party Patriots, which hosted an event in 2022 featuring Marty Probst, the husband of the GOP candidate for secretary of state. Probst called on Kim Crockett’s supporters to urge law enforcement to intervene on Election Day, even though the law generally forbids it.
“If you’ve got friends or family or whatever in sheriff’s deputies or sheriffs — we need them on Election Day,” Probst said. “That’s part of the SWAT team to get out when certain places don’t follow the rules that they’re supposed to.”
Minnesota law bans police officers from being within 50 feet of polling places except to vote or if they’re summoned by an election judge.
Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy, former chair of the state police licensing board, received an email inviting her to attend one of Mack’s events from a group called Sterling and Time Defense, which trains people on firearms and use-of-force laws and advertises itself as certified by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Department of Public Safety.
“I have no idea who any of these nut jobs are, other than they don’t understand why we have three branches of government,” McCarthy said.
James Stuart, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, said his organization sometimes gets questions from members about Mack’s events, but doesn’t tell sheriffs whether to participate or not.
“Sheriffs are gonna do what they know is best for their community,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of participation for a variety of reasons.”
When Stuart was Anoka County sheriff, residents would sometimes encourage him to attend the events or send him Mack’s books — one of which he said he’s read. Stuart wouldn’t give his personal opinion on the constitutional sheriff movement or say whether he’s ever attended one of the events, but said, “It’s good to be informed” and “do your homework.”
Mack was a founder of the Oath Keepers, a violent extremist group that played a key role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The ADL said six law enforcement officials from Minnesota were listed among members of the Oath Keepers last year. The ADL declined to disclose their names to the Reformer.
The Oath Keepers recruit law enforcement and have gotten more media attention, but the constitutional sheriffs group has “arguably had more success infiltrating law enforcement,” according to the ADL.
Mack’s group believes county sheriffs’ powers exceed those of any other authorities when they’re protecting Americans from foreign or domestic enemies. Mack has claimed sheriffs have the power to call out the militia to support them — the same logic employed by the Posse Comitatus, which the ADL calls a loosely organized, far-right, violent anti-government group that sprang out of the West Coast around 1970, peaked in the early 1980s and evolved into the sovereign citizen movement.
The Posse Comitatus also believed county government reigned supreme and sheriffs could nullify laws. One of their members, Gordon Kahl, was involved in two fatal shootouts with law enforcement in 1983, one in North Dakota and later in Arkansas, where he was killed.
Mack refers to his supporters as his posse.
The constitutional sheriffs’ group has honored as a “sheriff of the year” Wisconsin sheriff David Clarke, Jr., who described Black Lives Matter as a hate group and claimed they would join with the terrorist group ISIS to destroy American society.
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