Sessions calls sheriffs a 'critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement'

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE on Monday talked about the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement" when speaking to law enforcement officials.

Speaking to the National Sheriffs' Association, Sessions said he wanted 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," he said, according to CNN.


"The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement," he said.

Sessions added that "we must never erode this historic office."

CNN reported that Sessions strayed from a written version of the prepared remarks, which read: "The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage."

It also came under some criticism online from people who saw a racial note in the remarks. 

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, tweeted a quote from Coretta Scott King's 1986 letter opposing Sessions's judgeship.
" 'The irony of Mr. Sessions' nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.' #CorettaScottKing, 1986," she tweeted.
Others said the remarks might have just been a poor choice of words. 
In a statement, a Justice Department spokesperson said the language is commonly used to refer to the "shared legal heritage" between England and America.

“As most law students learn in the first week of their first year, Anglo-American law — also known as the common law — is a shared legal heritage between England and America. The sheriff is unique to that shared legal heritage. Before reporters sloppily imply nefarious meaning behind the term, we would suggest that they read any number of the Supreme Court opinions that use the term. Or they could simply put ‘Anglo-American law’ into Google.”

Updated at 4:19 p.m.