He Calls Himself the American Sheriff. Whose Law Is He Following? – POLITICO

Posted By on October 15, 2021

Lamb says the network takes its inspiration from Live PD, an A&E show that ran from 2016 until 2020, when it was canceled after deputies in Williamson County, Texas, were caught on camera tasing a man named Javier Ambler, and ultimately killing him. (In response to the incident, Texas passed a state law that forbids law enforcement agencies from partnering with reality television shows.) Before its cancellation, Live PD was immensely popular, capturing more viewers than any other cable program on Friday and Saturday nights. Lamb was a fixture on the show, as well as a host of a spinoff, Live PD: Wanted, which focused on catching fugitives.

The trailer for the new network features lots of shots of Lamb, his profile against a desert sunset as the camera pans slowly over the shadows of cacti. He flashes a Hollywood smile as he talks about the shine on the badge. Many of the episodes are filmed in a low-budget style and feature Lamb as a guide, introducing viewers to other sheriffs in Nevada and Arizona. Lamb says the new network is important because we just felt like it was important to give [sheriffs] their voice back. When I asked if Lamb was concerned about a repeat of what happened in Texas, Vale dismissed it saying that lots of things are out of [the sheriffs] control. One episode features deputies tasing new recruits as part of their training, and watching as they scream pain.

All of Lambs activities outside Pinal County raise the question of whether he is making money off this work. Protect America Now is new enough that its tax filings have not yet been made public, but Vale told me Lamb does not get paid by the group, outside reimbursements for expenses. (State records show, and Vale confirmed, that Lambs 2020 campaign provided a $10,000 loan to the group in August of last year.) When I asked Vale whether Lamb made a salary from the American Sheriff Network, he said Lamb was a partner of a Virginia LLC that produces the content but declined to give any other details. Vale declined to say anything else about the company or provide any details about funding, revenue or viewership. He told me Lamb does make some money from occasional appearances at gun shows and other events but likewise would not disclose the amount.

Sheriffs in almost every state operate independently with limited oversight, giving them the freedom to engage in political advocacy and appear in the media. The National Sheriffs Association, of which Lamb is a member, has a model code of ethics for sheriffs that prohibits using the office for private gain, among other things. I asked Sean Kennedy, a professor at Loyola Law School who is on the oversight commission for the Los Angeles County sheriff, about Lambs involvement with Protect America Now and other outside activities, and he said he believes Lambs behavior violates the NSAs code. Kennedy pointed to the provision about private gain, as well as one requiring equal protection of all citizens, without allowing personal opinion, party affiliations, or consideration of the status of others to alter or lessen this standard of treatment.

Asked to respond, Vale said Lamb keeps a strict division between his work as the Pinal County sheriff and his image as the American Sheriff. Vale added, All of his activities, both as sheriff and in his private time, are vetted through the [Pinal] County attorney. The attorney, Kent Volkmer, told me Lamb has consulted with him, including on Protect America Now and the American Sheriff Network, but said he does not review every single appearance Lamb makes outside his capacity as sheriff. A spokesperson for the NSA told me that, while the code of ethics is the basis of an organizational creed, sheriffs generally rely on their state laws for legal guidance. The spokesperson also took time to praise Lambs messaging skills, calling him a unicorn.

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He Calls Himself the American Sheriff. Whose Law Is He Following? - POLITICO

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