WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday praised the nation’s sheriffs – then referenced the “Anglo-American heritage” of law enforcement.
“I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” Sessions told members of the National Sheriffs’ Association during their winter conference in Washington.
He added: “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”
Organizations such as the NAACP deemed Sessions’ language his latest act of racism. Lawyers, however, have been quick to point to the term’s regular appearance in case law, saying that “Anglo-American law” – also known as common law – is a widely used term in the legal system that refers to the shared legal roots of England and the United States.
Sessions’ use of the term appears to have been impromptu, as it does not appear in his prepared remarks, which imply that he was supposed to say, “The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage.”
To those unfamiliar with the term’s legal context, “Anglo-American heritage” sounded offensive, especially considering the accusations of racism that have nearly derailed Sessions’s career. A Senate committee in 1986, for instance, denied Sessions a federal judgeship, as his former colleagues testified that Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana,” according to The Washington Post’s earlier reporting.
In response to Sessions’ remarks Monday, Splinter’s Emma Roller wrote that the attorney general “let his racism peek through a little more than he may have intended to.” And actress Alyssa Milano tweeted he should be “fired immediately.”
The NAACP in a statement said Sessions’ “latest racially-tinged comments” should give “all people reason to worry.”
“His decision to link the term Sheriff to some part ‘of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,’ is an unfortunate yet consistent aspect of the language coming out of the Department of Justice under his tenure and in the opinion of the NAACP, qualifies as the latest example of dog whistle politics,” NAACP officials said.
The NAACP has previously criticized Sessions’ rollback of Obama-administration policies on civil rights issues – including criminal justice, policing and voting rights – believing the move to be racially-charged.
In discussing sheriffs’ “Anglo-American heritage,” Sessions might have been invoking the origins of the …read more
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