Fierce Debate Erupts Over Federal Partnerships and Asset Forfeiture in Oklahoma County Sheriff Race

A heated debate in an Oklahoma county Sheriff’s race shows two contrasting mentalities common among elected officials. In this case, we have a Constitutional Sheriff who takes his oath very seriously going up against a tough-on-crime drug warrior repeating the federal propaganda no matter how absurd it may be.

After the previous Canadian County Sheriff retired, two veterans of the department are running to be the successor. The race is between Joshua Moore, a self-described constitutional conservative who worked as a patrol sergeant and an investigator at the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office, and Chris West, the present Canadian County Undersheriff.

Moore has received the endorsement of Sheriff Richard Mack of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s Association as well as the Gun Owners of America. His primary campaign issue is to ban civil asset forfeiture. On the other hand, West boasts about his ‘tough on crime’ credentials, touts endorsements from Oklahoma bureaucrats and law enforcement officials, and promises more enforcement power if he is elected.

The stark differences between these two candidates became abundantly clear during a recent exchange regarding federal partnerships with the county Sheriff’s office. Moore pointed out that the Sheriff’s office is working with the federal government, bemoaning the cost and constitutional questions stemming from the agreement. West confirmed that Moore’s accusation was indeed true, but tried to downplay the potential harm involved with the arrangement.

The Mustang Times reported on the race that will ultimately be decided by Canadian County voters on June 28:

“It is my understanding, the Sheriff’s Office currently has five deputies reporting to agencies such as the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, and the US Marshals, paid for out of the Sheriff’s Office budget,” Moore said. “The extra constitutional actions that have been taken by extra constitutional law enforcement agencies, such as these, are one reason that I disapprove of the Sheriff’s Office current practice of assigning Deputies to these federal law enforcement agencies.”

West confirmed that the Sheriff’s Office does have five Deputies that work with federal agencies, but said he believes it benefits the county tremendously and strongly disagreed with Moore.

“He (Moore) doesn’t understand the benefit of collaborating with these other agencies,” West said.

West must think that his constituents have been living under a rock during the last ten years. To anyone that has been paying attention, the idea that the feds are helping keep us safe is a foolhardy notion. West’s true motives were made clear when he attempted to justify the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement. From the Mustang Times article:

West said civil asset forfeiture is a very important tool for law enforcement agencies to keep criminals from having the resources they need.

“We are not ‘ignoring’ the Constitution,” West said.

“This is a practice that deprives criminals… We use the drug money, vehicles and other property from criminals to fight other criminal activity to protect our citizens. There is due process for individuals to appeal this if their assets are seized. This entire process is transparent and overseen by the courts.”

West was being far from honest in his appraisal of the civil asset forfeiture laws that are in effect in Oklahoma. The state was given a terrible D- rating by the Institute for Justice for their restrictive civil asset forfeiture laws in 2015, primarily because law enforcement only must “prove a property’s connection to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence in order to forfeit it” and that law enforcement was “only required to maintain an inventory of seized and forfeited property, providing little to no transparency.” Oklahomans are presumed guilty until proven innocent in the court of law because of these policies that West champions so forcefully.

This county Sheriff’s race illustrates the battle for freedom that is taking place at every level of government. By electing a Constitutional Sheriff or liberty-minded members for your local city council or county commission, it can make all the difference in keeping your community free.

In the Canadian County Sheriff’s race, it is already helping by getting the word out about harmful federal partnerships and raising awareness about civil asset forfeiture. And with the drug war falling to pieces, tough-on-crime rhetoric does not resonate with the general public as it once did. Constitutional candidates have a great chance of winning these days, and with the side effect of informing and galvanizing the public by running, they really can’t lose!