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You are not above the law PDF Print E-mail

Dear Editor and Perkins County Residents:
I have worked for county government in the state of Nebraska since 1991, a career spanning 20 years in corrections, law enforcement, communications, and emergency management, with 15 of those years having been spent here in Perkins County.  
During my tenure in county government I have many times, with great sincerity and pride, taken the Oath of Office as required by Nebraska Revised Statute §11.101.01 which reads as follows:
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or for purpose of evasion; and that I will faithfully and impartially perform the duties of the Office of Sheriff according to law, and to the best of my ability. And I do further swear that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any political party or organization that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or of this state by force or violence; and that during such time as I am in this position I will not advocate nor become a member of any political party or organization that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or of this state by force or violence. So help me God.”
The deputy sheriffs under my employ have, with the same seriousness, taken the Oath of Office; as do all other elected officials, in part swearing that each of us will faithfully and impartially perform the duties of our office according to law and the best of our abilities.
Most of the duties performed by a Nebraska sheriff and their deputy sheriffs are in many ways similar to those duties performed by the Nebraska State Patrol and police departments, however, various sections in the Nebraska Revised Statutes place additional responsibilities upon the Office of Sheriff–including and not limited to: accident investigation, civil process service, contract law enforcement, coroner in absentia, crime prevention, criminal investigation, court officer, extradition, jailer and traffic enforcement officer.
The Perkins County Sheriff’s Office is a full service law enforcement agency handling the many duties prescribed to it by law in a prioritized and efficient manner using the resources available to us.  
I have always held strong belief our sheriff’s office should be proactive rather than reactive, meaning while we as law enforcement officers protect and serve the community, we focus upon ways to deter or prevent crime or other unsafe situations from occurring in our jurisdiction before such crimes and situations occur as opposed to simply waiting for the crime or unsafe situation to occur and then responding.
We are all fortunate to live in a small rural community where crime rates against persons and property are lower than national averages, where we know and trust the great majority of our neighbors, where we can depend upon one another when need arises, where we have religious, government, health care, educational and business organizations that truly care about people and provide quality services to those they serve.  
All of these things make Perkins County a great place to live and raise a family. However, despite the good, we are not immune to crime, the criminal element and tragedies caused by people who are disinclined to obey the laws as established by our society.
I would like to share with you the contents of a letter submitted to The Grant Tribune Sentinel on March 13, 2011 which the newspaper was unable to publish because the author of the writing felt they could not sign their work.  I am including the contents of the anonymously submitted letter in my signed letter so the writer’s thoughts can be given due consideration.
“Here’s a letter for the Editor. For obvious reasons its been submitted without a name... They did it in Athens in 1946
Dear Editor, It seems more and more these days we are hearing stories of the criminal element of our community being mercilessly brought to justice. Farmers going a bit too fast down the road, little ladies not signaling their turns on the way to church. The worst society has to offer which threaten us daily! While I’m sure our Law Enforcement has visions of grandeur fighting crime the fact is they live in a small rural community in western Nebraska. If they have such drive and ambition perhaps they would fit in better in places such as Detroit or DC. A community of farmers shouldn’t suffer the daily harassment of law enforcement for infractions so minor as to be overlooked by better men elsewhere. Gone are the days of a relaxed rural atmosphere, replaced by an overbearing and oppressive law enforcement agency hell bent on painting the citizens of the community as criminals one and all. At what point does the community say enough is enough? At what point do we question why our tax dollars are used to fund an overbearing law enforcement agency more concerned with writing a ticket than waving as they pass by? At what point do we stop allowing them to follow us and harass us and treat us like criminals? When a community no longer respects its officers but rather resents them it’s clearly past time for a top to bottom change in the organization.”
There is currently a group of individuals in our county who over the past several weeks and months have been stopped for various traffic violations by my deputy sheriffs and seem to have taken issue with the Perkins County Sheriff’s Office doing its job.  
Some of these individuals who have taken issue with the sheriff’s office have been stopped on more than one occasion, in some instances years apart, some months apart, some just weeks apart, some by our agency as well as by other Nebraska law enforcement agencies including sheriff’s offices, police departments and the Nebraska State Patrol. But all of these individuals received a combination of courtesy traffic warnings advising them to change their unlawful behavior and traffic citations citing them into county court for their continued unlawful actions.  
Some of these individuals readily admit they violated the law, however, feel they are either too important or too busy to be subjected to a brief detention by deputies of my office who are issuing traffic enforcement actions.
These individuals who are dissatisfied with my office have not expressed their concerns over the actions of my office directly with me, the agency head, but rather have taken their slanderous campaign to anonymously submitted letters to the editor, the local meeting shack, area coffee shops, barbershop, bars and eating establishments in an effort to somehow justify their unlawful actions and discredit Perkins County law enforcement’s proactive measures in public safety.
My office has been accused by these individuals of selective enforcement and harassment, writing tickets to generate revenue for the sheriff’s office and meet mandated quotas, being merciless, overbearing, oppressive, and unfriendly.      
These allegations are far from reality and quite simply are not even close to being true.  We do not premeditate traffic stops, we do not profile, we do not receive any fine monies, there are no quotas, and we are not merciless, overbearing, oppressive or unfriendly.  
We are your law enforcement officers, your neighbors, and your friends.  We are just as vested in this county and community as each of you; settling in, buying homes, and raising our families here.  In fact, the biggest difference between us is our profession and a willingness to stand ready and do the most grievous of harm on your behalf should the need arise or make the ultimate sacrifice by giving our lives to protect you.
My deputy sheriffs enforce traffic laws during regularly scheduled shifts at my directive, in accordance with state law, and most importantly in the best interest of public safety with the goal of promoting overall traffic safety and reducing the number of fatality, injury, and non-injury motor vehicle accidents in our county.  
The enforcement of traffic laws provides a secondary benefit of serving as a criminal deterrent by law enforcement officers being seen publicly in marked patrol vehicles and uniforms performing their duties and bringing officers into contact with those in and passing through our county, some of who are certainly a part of the criminal element of our society and are looking to, or on occasion, have just committed crimes more serious than traffic offenses.
The Perkins County Sheriff’s Office will always be fair, reasonable and consistent with the public. Additionally, we will perform our duties with integrity, professionalism and respect.  
The contacts we have with the public are audio and video recorded for evidentiary purposes and later reviewed by supervisory personnel to insure high standards are met and actions taken by law enforcement personnel are appropriate.  
I accept nothing less and personally review a majority of the video recordings and consistently find my deputy sheriffs treat the public properly–but in some instances the treatment received by deputy sheriffs and me from members of the public is what could be described as less than desirable.
No matter the way we are treated or what falsities are spread around the county about us, we will stay our course and continue our traffic enforcement efforts focusing on the following priority areas: speed enforcement, stop sign enforcement, failure to yield right of way to motor vehicle and pedestrians enforcement, driving under the influence and driving under suspension/revocation enforcement, seat belt and child restraint usage enforcement, texting enforcement, drug interdiction stops, suspicious activity stops, misuse of operators licenses and permits enforcement, and license plate/registration and insurance enforcement.
The proactive law enforcement efforts used by the Perkins County Sheriff’s Office are working. Overall crime rates and accident rates decreased in 2010.  During the first quarter of 2011 we have experienced 10 accidents, none of which involved a fatality or an injury.  In addition, our traffic enforcement efforts in the first quarter of 2011 have resulted in citing one reckless driver, two exhibition of acceleration drivers, removing two drunk drivers and four suspended drivers from the roadways, identifying 32 vehicle defects and issuing 206 courtesy warnings and 184 traffic citations.  
I would ask for the cooperation of the community in obeying traffic laws to help us to keep Perkins County roadways as safe as possible.  Spring is upon us, the weather is improving, and our roadways will become busier with heavy truck and farm equipment as we progress through the fall harvest season. So let us all do our part in avoiding yet another traffic tragedy in our county.
As your Perkins County Sheriff I maintain an open door policy and invite you to stop by and meet with me in person during courthouse business hours should you have reasonable and productive comments, questions or concerns about the operations of the Office of Sheriff in Perkins County.  You may also contact me by telephone at (308) 352-4564 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
If your only purpose in contacting me is to complain you don’t like the laws, violated the law and were caught, want to take the matter to court or disagree with my deputies and me performing our duties as required by Nebraska State Statutes,  there is nothing I can do to assist you.  
There are avenues available to change the laws and have matters tried before the County Court to determine if we did our jobs properly and rule on the matter of a person’s guilt or innocence.
As the 26th President of the United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., said, “No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it.  Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.”
Respectfully submitted,
Sheriff James D. Brueggeman
Perkins County, Nebraska