Efforts to have the Sussex County Sheriff abide by the same laws the other counties in the state follow have stalled for the second time, probably because this is an election year and the sponsors of the legislation that would handcuff the sheriff probably feared losing a vote or two.

A few years back Democrats in the House sponsored legislation to limit the sheriffs arrest authority but Republicans backed off supporting the bill. Democrats said because the Sussex Sheriff Jeff Christopher is a Republican, the Republicans could have a shot at him, no pun intended, the next time around.

So in this session Seaford Republican, House member, Dan Short and Milford Republican State Senator Gary Simpson collaborated with legislation that would make sure sheriffs in all three counties understood their limits. Nineteen House members, mostly Republicans, and six senators signed on to cosponsor the bill.

The sheriff rounded up his supporters, many attending a recent country council meeting, many of which chided the council for their non-support of the sheriff, and a bus load of pro-sheriff supporters went to Dover, and apparently the chief architect, Short got cold feet, saying a delay is needed to clarify “misinformation.”

Translated in political terms means the  bill is dead for now. Read my column Thursday in the STAR; my story on lobbying reform, I say the same will happen to that bill.

I don’t really understand the problem; three opinions from the attorney general’s offices and orders from Sussex County Council, the Legislature had already made it clear that sheriffs should not have arrest powers.

Many moons ago, it had specified that police officers had to undergo training and be certified before they have arrest powers, and sheriffs were barred from the police academy. Those remarks were directed at Christopher’s predecessor, Robert Reed. Jeff served as Reed’s deputy.

Sussex Countians don’t like government telling them what to do, even though it’s for their own protection. If they had their way everyone should be allowed to walk around with a holster and gun and shoot anyone who looked at them the wrong way.  The NRA should have their headquarters in Sussex.

Definitely a different group of people then I grew up with. If they could take over the government…the wild west would return; we’d have to circle our wagons not to protect ourselves from the Indians, but from the civilians.

I would say if the sheriff continues his ‘ride ’em cowboy’ style of enforcement, the county council  has a law suit waiting to happen.



  1. If the Sheriff is to have power to arrest and needs to carry a weapon then I feel that they should go through the proper training just as police officers do.
    You can count me as one of those Sussex Countians who do not like the government telling me what to do. And if I thought for one minute it was for my own protection I would probably look at it amicably but, the Government can no longer protect us! Remember 9/11!!! I would be proud to have the NRA headquartered here and, it would probably bring in tourism dollars that would be better spent than on beach replenishment !!!!!!

  2. Hi Frank,
    Thank you for your comments on the duties of the Sussex County Sheriff.
    I work for all the people of Sussex whether R’s or D’s or I’s. I listen to all sides of issues.
    I was at Café Azafran in Lewes again this morning to meet with constituents and the only person to bring up the matter of the sheriff told me he supports what I am doing–following the law.
    It’s not a question of my choosing what to do. I listen to the Sussex County Attorney who advises the County Council to rely on the Delaware Attorney General Opinions: that the sheriffs in Delaware do not have arrest powers. I am not in a position to override that but Christopher ignores it and has been causing havoc in the County. We heard about some of it today.
    He defies the County Administration and the AG. He uses County employees and County equipment to try to build a police department. The former sheriff worked in a non-descript khaki uniform, was armed and was very successful in delivering papers, but Christopher had to have police uniforms, newer guns, and he and his “deputies” go around in uniform, armed whether authorized or not . He installed police lights on, and inside the County cars and had them labeled as police cars. We have reports of him making a false arrest, having his chief deputy pull over drivers, interfering with a DSP investigation, organizing residents into “posses”, and his chief deputy tried to buy a larger car without County authority. Those are just a few of the complaints we have gotten about him.
    The administration wrote a 48-page letter to Christopher about his actions and included relevant law. Christopher has never answered it. Another letter he never answered is the Oct. 12, 2011 one asking what kind of training he wanted for deputy sheriffs.
    The County (you) are paying salaries to Christopher and his “deputies” to serve the Court but I have gotten reports that they are lobbying all over the County, frightening our older and vulnerable residents with predictions that they aren’t safe unless he is on the job. The residents’ fears are real and very important and I have contacted State Police every time we get reports of crime. Crime is actually down 1% in Sussex County.
    Jeff Christopher and former Arizona Sheriff Mack were interviewed on WGMD and revealed that the goal is for the sheriff to be the principal law official over the Delaware State Police and over the Municipal Police. See I guarantee you that if he gets that, it will cost taxpayers millions.
    Any such change would require action by the General Assembly. In February 2012 the AG wrote, “We think the wisest course for all concerned is to seek clarification from the General Assembly as to whether it wishes to grant county sheriffs power to arrest.” That opinion was reported in all the papers and we have followed the AG’s advice by asking the General Assembly for passage of House Bill 290. That should have been a surprise to no one. It has been reported in all the newspapers.

  3. I am a former sheriff of sussex county with the understanding of what the duties of the office entailed.I had no problems with the county council, nor did I create any. I did however put all my deputies in white shirts and black pants with a patch on their shoulders, to identify them to the public as most of the papers from the courts where delivered in the evening. Prior to my taking office the deputies wore jeans and other types of clothing that i would have not answered the door had they been on my step. I now support the council and do not believe that we need the sheriff or his deputies having arrest powers. I believe we can take care of this problem in the next election.

  4. Frank, I am sure you know that if he were a County employee he would have been fired long ago. But he’s elected and we treat him with utmost respect. Both administrators have been very patient with him but he ignores our letters and will not answer FOIA requests. We have so many reports about him and to wait any longer would be irresponsible on our part; we have to bring this to a halt.

  5. What a mess. Joan- glad you are holding fast and standing your ground, albeit with your hands tied because of the elected official status.

    Frank- My friend, I think you are being a bit harsh and unfair to the vast majority of your fellow Sussex Countians. I don’t know anyone personally who thinks everyone should carry a gun and shoot anyone who looks at them the wrong way. And I am a concealed carry permited gun lover who thinks we do not need another law enforcement agency with its jurisdictional spitting matches to deal with and administrative overhead to pay for. Common sense would tell you it is cheaper and more effective to expand service through existing agencies, whether town or state. Most people I know feel the same way. Again, let me slap the media – the Sheriff’s rhetoric just makes better headlines. Your position of common sense, well it just isn’t sexy enough.

    • Oh my, remind me to have our waitress ‘frisk you’ before we have lunch; wouldn’t want to catch you in a bad mood, have Jack egg you on and have a shorten lunch.

      You should follow my blog closer; I have some who would shoot first ask questions later. Maybe you’d better stay on your side of the county.

      Your key paragraph was “common sense would tell you it is cheaper and more effective to expand servicer through existing agencies.” Since most of the sheriff’supporters are Tea Party intellectuals who don’t like taxes, maybe it would be a good idea to present them a budget showing how many wannabe cops it would take to cover a 7/24 hour shift, equiptment including cars with lights, and benefits and see if they are willing to pay the extra taxes it would take to keep the sheriffs office on the road.

      When I was with the county we looked into a county police force; one meeting and that thought went out the window.

  6. Frank, have you read the report that was released by sussex county regarding the sheriff. Hopefully people will read this and understand the ramifications of his actions, and stop clinging to a vague reference in the state constitution.

    • Just arrived from being out of town for several days; someone sent me a link to the story. I am not surprised;I understand pressure was put on by some Tea Party members threatening some Republicans members of the Legislature primaries the same as they did with Booth, and they backed off. I figure the bill suffered the same fate the Lobbyists and campaign finance bills will receive within the nex few weeks; no action. I wonder if the Tea Party people are willing to pay for the huge increase in taxes sto support a police system?

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