Sheriff Tim Howard: From Law Enforcement to Law Selection

Howard and Arpaio – two of the worst Sheriffs in America

Has anyone else managed to wrap their head around the fact that Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard isn’t just opposed to the NY SAFE Act, but has pledged to not honor or enforce it in any way? The power of the sheriff is not law selection – to pick and choose which laws to enforce – it is, instead, law enforcement.

It’s altogether possible that Howard has some sort of problem with the way NY SAFE and many other laws are passed or written. If he doesn’t like it, he should run for – and win – a seat on the Assembly or in the Senate.

It’s also possible that Howard thinks that the NY SAFE Act is unconstitutional or that it was hastily passed. To that end, he should have attended law school and then run for – and won – a judicial seat. Be a named plaintiff in the suit to strike it down. Be lead counsel on the case.  But that’s not all – to have a real effect he should have so excelled as a jurist that the governor would appoint him to the Court of Appeals, where the penultimate say would be had on the constitutionality question. Better still, make your way right onto the United States Supreme Court, which has the power of judicial review and to declare what the law is. It is the courts that determine the constitutionality of statutes that legislatures pass – not county sheriffs.

Instead, we have a county sheriff who has donned the mantle of legislator, governor, and Supreme Court Justice. He has unilaterally and extralegally decided that he will not enforce a duly passed law with which he doesn’t agree. This is, frankly, astonishing.

The 40 year-long war on drugs hasn’t been successful, yet Howard continues to enforce our narcotics statutes. Why?

Here’s what Howard says about the state’s new, more restrictive law regarding assault weapons:

January 31, 2013 – Our state already had some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and with the stroke of a pen our State Legislature and Governor made them even more restrictive last month, all in the name of making us safer. I don’t believe for one minute that Governor Cuomo did this to protect us; rather he rammed this bill through for his own personal agenda, so he could be the first out of the gate to thump his chest and say how restrictive gun laws are in New York , thus beating President Obama to the punch.

It is no secret Andrew Cuomo wants to be a presidential candidate in 2016. He took a very emotional event in our nation (the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut) and the unrelated murders of two first responders in Webster, NY and wrapped his constricting gun legislation around them like a bow, hand delivering it to the NYS legislature in a sweeping package that, in my opinion, infringes on every American’s constitutional right to bear arms.

We as citizens never even had an opportunity to respond to the proposed bill with our input; even law enforcement wasn’t consulted on this. In my opinion, this new law is proof of what gun rights people have been saying all along – that registration is a precursor to confiscation. We have landed on a slippery slope allowing the government to start tinkering with our second amendment rights – what comes next?

Well, why bother enforcing even the prior, “toughest gun laws”? Can you believe a local sheriff impugns the motives of the governor and the entire legislature in passing a law in the wake of the tragic massacre of 20 1st graders? Can you believe the way that statement sounds identical to the morningtime rantings of some high school dropout, shut-in, underemployed radio talk-show caller? And what especial knowledge or right does Howard possess to determine that the SAFE Act is violative of the Constitution? That’s a job for the courts, not law enforcement. Instead, Howard has appropriated for himself the unheard-of power of law selection. That’s the only real assault on the Constitution in this case – Howard’s self-appointment to be a co-Governor and court.

“We as citizens” have an opportunity to respond to the proposed bill with this input: don’t vote to re-elect the people who passed it. That’s what you can do. You can protest, you can complain, you can write, you can petition, you can call your legislators, etc. What Howard has done here – making believe that “registration is a precursor to confiscation” – is beyond an outrage. It should be, frankly, grounds for removal. 

Gun registration is not a precursor to confiscation any more than car registration is a precursor to car confiscation.

And Howard’s position isn’t the analogue to some brave Nazi soldier refusing to obey an illegal order. (That analogy has actually been made). No one asked Howard to round up and commit mass-murder of Jews, gays, gypsies, or other groups of people, and making that comparison demeans and cheapens the memories of the millions of victims of the Nazi horror.

Although stylistically different, Howard’s refusal to enforce the laws of this state is no different from what Gilbert, Pennsylvania police chief Mark Kessler is busy doing on YouTube: calling out “libtards” and shooting automatic weapons into trees and mounds of dirt.

Sheriff Tim Howard, who is running for re-election this year, can talk about confiscatory slippery slopes all he wants, but make no mistake that this is precisely what’s going through his head. (Language NSFW)


  • Just so we’re all clear, what is the “Alan Bedenko line”, where law enforcers must take moral steps to ignore moral laws. Obviously (?) we can’t use the Nazi example because that’s just to *extreme*, and we can’t expose national “secrets” that shouldn’t be secret because Scary Terr’rists.

    So where is the line?

    Also, yes, it’s very easy to believe that we can impugn the motives of grand-standing legislators jumping on a bandwagon after an horrific event to pass hasty, ill-conceived laws that will do exactly nothing to prevent that same sort of violence. It’s actually pretty stupid to defend the legislators in that case.

    The time to consider that sort of legislation is -now-, when there is no high emotional investment and there’s at least a non-zero chance that reasoned debate might occur.

    • Sorry, did you see anywhere in the article where I discussed the relative merits or demerits of the NY SAFE Act? No, you didn’t.

      Sheriff Tim Howard does not have the legal power to ignore laws that are on the books and within his duty to uphold and enforce. Until the moment a court enjoins the law from being enforced, or strikes it down altogether, Howard is acting illegally and extraconstitutionally.

      You just don’t have a problem with it because you don’t like the law he’s rejecting.

      • No, I just don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t own a gun. I don’t care about the SAFE Act because 7 bullets or 10 bullets is more bullets than I own, and really, it’s a complete sideshow because it doesn’t really do anything to address mass gun violence.

        Good job avoiding the question: Where is your line when a law can be ignored by its enforcers? Does someone have to die?

        The way I figure, he’s entitled to ignore those laws he feels are unconstitutional by the very nature of the oath taken when sworn in. If voters feel he’s wrong, they should feel free to vote him out, or you can sue in court and have him removed. If all you’re doing is advocating for that, knock yourself out.

        • Where is your line when a law can be ignored by its enforcers?

          No such line exists in American jurisprudence. We have a system of checks & balances, and “cop refusing to enforce the law” isn’t one of them. The only thing that comes close is jury nullification, and even that can happen only after a sheriff has done the job with which he’s tasked.

          • That’s what I thought and expected you to say, so thanks for that.

            It’d be an interesting, scary country if it actually worked that way.

            I know “no such line exists in American jurisprudence”, but that completely ignores morality and the concept of “natural law” which you obviously don’t give a crap about, but I’d rather take my cues from guys like Spooner and Mills.

            Thanks for your replies.

          • “Natural law”? Should Howard just follow his conscience and only police those activities that offend his sense of right and wrong?

            Instead of grilling Alan for a “line” that does not exist, why not just list all the laws currently on the books that you feel are okay for Howard to ignore, and those you feel he should definitely enforce.

            Perhaps Howard will also one day feel that the laws regarding police brutality are getting tiresome. Point is that he completely LACKS the authority to make any of these decisions.

          • If we were all that concerned about morality, there’d be no guns allowed at all. If there exists such a thing as “natural law”, I don’t see how it’s relevant here. We have a system of common and statutory law, and you don’t get to pick & choose which ones you feel like enforcing if you’re a sheriff.

          • Even before the SAFE act. that’s pretty much the way it has been, sick as it is. NO GUNS AT ALL? And you equate this with morality? Where’s the connection. All the drug dealers have guns, SAFE act or no. Gangs have all the automatic weapons they desire,. SAFE ACT or no. I do not understand how guns in the hands of responsible law abiding citizens is immoral. As I type this I have my .357 sitting next to the mouse. I have permits and I carry concealed when I feel it necessary, and open when I don’t. Couldn’t do that in NY. A defense lawyer friend says even Cops can’t carry concealed off duty in Buffalo. Perhaps that’s why last time I was home I was accosted coming out of a mom and pop store by a large young black man who was selling pot in front of the business. Cops are in uniform or carrying open–so you know who NOT to ask.

          • Alan, that statement is a perfect example of why people don’t trust registration: they know it’s driven by people who, fundamentally, do not believe in a right to own firearms. And since it’s long since proven not to reduce crime, ergo, it must be for something else.

          • I wrote nothing about the “right to own firearms”. I said if people were all that concerned about morality, there would be no firearms because you’re not morally supposed to shoot people unless they’re shooting at you, and if there were no guns that wouldn’t happen.

          • Yes, he’s free to follow natural law, as are we all–and that’s frequently the way new law gets made, when somebody establishes a test case. But he doesn’t get to follow it without consequences, and those include being fired, not being re-elected, and being prosecuted and jailed for dereliction of duty.

            If the last should happen, I’m guessing he would hope not to be imprisoned in the Erie County Holding Center, where with alarming frequency, black men string themselves up, or so Sheriff Howard tells us.

            Let’s also not forget that this is the creep who neglected to go public when NYC cops came to Buffalo and proposed spying on Buffalo Muslims–i.e., on Sheriff Howard’s employers.

          • I don’t think he would worry too much about being locked up in the Holding Center, considering how easy it is to escape from there.

      • I guess you could say the same thing about Obama and the continuing aid to Egypt.

  • Whether for or against the “Safe” act you have to admit Sheriff Howard in his tenure has been a veritable parade of missteps, screw-ups, goof-ups and the like.
    Really! You just can’t buy this kind of entertainment.

  • Christina Halasz

    Evidently, only some of us have feelings— “democrats” like the sort of “democracy” that comes with gagging, robbing, raping, opponents and silencing their supporters, fudging election results, playing judge, jury and executioner without that pesky thing called the law to inhibit them; without public opinion to mess things up. Everyone else can rot in an early grave and we’re weak if we raise a stink about our hurt.

  • The greater concern is the convoluted logic used by the courts and legislatures to override the Constitution, that and the fact people put up with it.

  • Sheriff Howard is not doing his job and people on this thread are going far afield to defend the indefensible.. And therein lies the problem. Adult children having a hissy fit because they are not getting their way.

  • But somehow it’s OK when Obama and Holder decide which of the laws they swore to uphold, they actually choose to enforce.

  • Here’s a suggestion Mr. Bedenko: While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, why not write an article on how the Governor continuously bypasses the state constitution with the message of necessity for such emergency measures as casino gambling and gay marriage, not to mention the SAFE Act – the majority of which wasn’t even to have become effective immediately.

    It would also be really interesting to get Senator Grisanti’s comments on how much time he had to read the bill before he voted to sell law-abiding gun owners down the river. Being that the legislation wasn’t on senators’ desks for more than 2 hours prior to their vote, it is – pardon the pun, “safe” to say he never read it. Now, he and everyone else who voted for it is starting to see just how big of a cluster duck they’ve created. Effective representation, Mr. Bedenko?

    You’ll pardon me if I disagree strenuously with your assertion thats my voice is heard by voting next election while the people who are supposed to represent me meet in secret and hold a vote in the middle of the night like a bunch of cockroaches scurrying from the first rays of sunlight. In the meantime, just take their completely eliminating my voice from the very “representative” government we’re supposed to have and passing a law that essentially slaps the face of every person who owns a gun and has done nothing but abide by the law – just make up for it next election, right? Sorry, doesn’t work that way in my book.

    Lastly, your comment that “What Howard has done here – making believe that “registration is a precursor to confiscation” – is beyond an outrage. It should be, frankly, grounds for removal” is patently absurd. There are numerous published reports and video showing quite clearly that the Governor and several Democrats indeed sought just that – confiscation. The only people that deserve removal from office are the cowards who voted for this legislation like Mark Grisanti, allowed it to be negotiated behind closed doors without constituent or expert opinion (law enforcement and medical), and who rammed it down our throats with a bogus message of necessity. I will indeed remember when election time rolls around.

    • And while your at it…how about the good Governor ramming thru yet another downgrade in the State’s retirement system tier, accomplished by bribing each and every member of the legislature with up to six thousand dollars each in small print riders to the bill.
      Then there is Dandy Andy’s Peace Bridge Authority takeover attempt. How he tried to use the Catholic Church for a photo op with his girlfriend. Or all the tough threats of competing casino’s in his dealings with the Senecas only to get what the arbitrators would have determined anyway.
      Let’s face it. Dandy Andy operates only for his own ambition, not for any ethical or moral standard. Not for us.
      But in his defense…he is one heck of a grandstander.

  • Here’s the big news about Sheriff Howard’s Erie County Holding Center (

    “Berezowski’s death brings my count of the number of so-called suicides to 29. This includes Lester J. Foster (12/23/11), Trevell Walker (10/12/11), Rakim Scriven (9/4/11), Keith John (7/31/10), Jeremy Kiekbush (3/3/10), Daniel Nye (2/13/10), Adam Murr (12/19/09), John Reardon (4/30/08), Joanne Jesse (3/31/08), Michael Roberts (1/23/07), Carmelo Torres (5/14/05), Juan Aquino (4/20/05), Michael Scioli (9/22/04), Patrick Chadwick (9/11/04), Eden Baez (8/28/03), John Marinaccio (4/29/03), Eric Fedrick (9/14/02), Christian Johns (8/20/98), Virgil Weathington (1/11/97), Scott Maurer (10/15/96), Kenneth Hall (6/23/96), Victor Ortiz (11/4/95), Allen Hagedorn (5/24/95), Jason Winiewski (12/2/92), Robert Huhn (1/1/92), Lamar Patterson (8/15/91), Jeffrey Fromen (8/28/90), and James Lee (2/20/89). That’s 18 ECHC deaths, ALL conspicuously ruled ‘suicides’ since September 14, 2002, and 29 since ’89.”

    If this is a successful Erie County Sheriff, what would a howling disaster look like?

  • Bottom line: The legislatures make the laws, the courts interpret them as to their Constitutionality, and the police enforce the laws until and unless the court says “No, it’s not a good law.”

    If Sheriff Howard and the many other NY county sheriffs refuse to follow their oath, I have one word for them:

    RESIGN. You are committing dereliction of duty. God, I’d love to try saying what rules I can and can’t follow at my workplace-yet can’t because I know doing that is an invitation to getting my ass kicked out the door after I’m fired.

  • All sheriffs, cops, chiefs, etc. selectively enforce laws. They do so on the say so of the Mayor, the County legislature, the Governor, etc. They do so in the field and in practice. They won’t even do much about a seatbelt violation unless they are on time and a half for seat belt enforcement. Nothing new.
    The difference with Howard is he couldn’t just do it. He had to run his mouth about it.

  • Perhaps Sheriff Tim Howard is a constitutional sheriff, that is he has sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and he means it. He should not and cannot under his oath, uphold any law that is not constitutional or goes against the Bill of Rights, OUR Bill of Rights.. The constitution is short and easy to read. Anyone can read it. Keep in mind that the laws the Federal government are passing and the laws of NY State are not always constitutional in spite of what the U.S. Supreme court says. The laws that have been passed in recent years have turned us into a socialist government, not a republic. The Sheriff has been elected to protect the people of the county. He does not have to enforce laws that are unconstitutional. vmm

  • and thats exatly why he was elected 🙂 thank god buffalonians arnt completely brainwashed by liberal propaganda

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