Tuesday April 29, 2014
Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers is standing firm in his decision to travel last week to the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy, site of a showdown between the federal government and critics of federal overreach.
He dubbed the effort a "peacekeeping mission," responding in a Facebook post Sunday to a critical Goshen News editorial.
"The knowledge and experience I gained from this trip is going to serve Elkhart County in the near future when something occurs here," he wrote in the post. "I was also there on a peacekeeping mission to keep people from getting killed, on my own time!"
Rogers is a defender of state and local rights and an advocate of the power of elected sheriffs to assert their authority in the face of federal government overreach. As such, he traveled to Bunkerville, Nev., from April 18-20 to prod the local sheriff there to intercede in the showdown between Bundy and U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials, worried the situation could lead to bloodshed and violence.
The feds were trying to enforce a prohibition on grazing on public land by Bundy's cattle, while Bundy maintained what he deemed his right to let the cattle roam. A contingent of armed backers of Bundy converged on the scene, leading to the tense showdown, defused with the departure of federal authorities.
Rogers' visit generated a strong response here in Elkhart County, pro and con, and the sheriff remained unrepentant in his new Facebook post. "I will continue to fight against tyranny at all levels, and for all people (including liberals) and will be the proactive constitutional sheriff most Elkhart County citizens expect," he wrote.
ROGERS' APPEARANCE WITH BUNDY
Rogers — a Republican who's up for election this year, though unopposed — appeared with Bundy at an April 19 news conference, shortly after the Nevada rancher made controversial racial remarks, wondering whether black people would be better off as slaves. In fact, the Elkhart County sheriff shows up on the video about 15 minutes after the racial remarks. (Rogers didn't hear the comments, wasn't present the moment Bundy made them, he says.) He shakes hands with Bundy and then offers his thoughts, standing side-by-side with the Nevada rancher.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to see video of the news conference, uploaded originally to Bambuser.com (here) by Jasonpatrick11. Rogers shows up about the 33:45 mark while Bundy's controversial racial remarks start around 17:48.
"I'm out here to show support and affirm with the other people that are here that, really the feds shouldn't be involved. It should be the sheriff," Rogers, in uniform, told the crowd, gathered outdoors. Rogers asserted that the local sheriff, Clark County, Nev., Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, should have mediated the situation between the feds and Bundy.
Rogers appears for around 18 minutes in the 1 hour and seven minute video, sticking to previously stated views that the feds sometimes exceed their authority and it's the role of sheriffs to help keep them in line. Here are highlights:
- "...I'm not here to judge Mr. Bundy. But even if he was wrong, 200 armed federal agents to gather up cows? It should be the sheriff intervening so that we don't have a Waco or a Ruby Ridge all over again," he said.
- "Sometimes we protect you from the criminals, but sometimes we have to step in and protect you from government," he said, generating an enthusiastic response from the supportive crowd. "Amen," said one man.
- He discussed his role in getting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to back off a Middlebury-area raw milk farmer in 2011. "The Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration was trying to come in and I said, 'You know, I'm from the government. I have to abide by the Fourth Amendment and so do you.' And I told them to get out and don't come back to this farmer's property or I'll arrest you for trespassing," he said, generating cheers.
- He noted the status of sheriffs as the highest-ranking elected law enforcement officials and portrayed them as more connected to a community. Sheriffs "have a name, we have a face... You have a number for the sheriff. Who do you contact with the feds? There's no number. There's no face to them," he said.
- He noted his membership in the Oath Keepers, a group of present and former law enforcement and military officials dedicated to upholding the Constitution and disobeying moves they see as unconstitutional, like pushes to disarm the public. "Basically it's a bunch of peace-loving patriots like yourselves that are looking to have constitutional government and to not abide by any orders that are unconstitutional, like herding people into concentration camps or disarming the public or whatever the case may be," he said.
- Asked about the sort of control the federal government has over land here, a reference to the broad swaths of the West that the feds maintain, he said it's not like in Nevada. "You know out East, you have a lot less of federal involvement 'cause there are more of the original states. But as you go further west, it's a nightmare. I empathize with you," he said.
'PROUDLY REPRESENTING ELKHART COUNTY'
In an e-mail last week, Rogers said there's no ethical issue with wearing his Elkhart County Sheriff's Department uniform on the Nevada trip.
"I'm the sheriff of this county whether on vacation or not," he wrote. "I was proudly representing Elkhart County to show that the people in Elkhart County are a peaceful people and, as sheriff, I desire for all potentially violent situations to be resolved without anyone getting killed."
Rogers used vacation time to visit Nevada. Oath Keepers covered the cost of the trip, he said.