Joe Henderson: Sheriff Chad Chronister doesn’t make the laws, he enforces them

chad chronister
Conservatives fumed when Hillsborough's Sheriff arrested Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. But the law said Chad Chronister had no choice.

Chad Chronister, the Sheriff of Hillsborough County, is a Republican.

I mention this because the law, in theory anyway, is non-partisan.

So, it follows that people in his position should keep politics out of the equation and simply enforce the rules crafted by lawmakers. But as we’ve seen lately, not everyone agrees with that.

Conservatives fumed when Chronister busted Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for holding services at The River at Tampa Bay church in late March. Howard-Browne defied an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis banning large-scale public meetings, and Hillsborough was under a safer-at-home order.

Chronister said at the time he had no choice because “practicing those beliefs has to be done safely.”

And here I thought Republicans are the party of law and order. Are they arguing that Chronister should have looked the other way at an act of defiance during a global pandemic? A lot of people risked infection that night at the River.

In case anyone forgot, Chronister is supposed to ensure public safety as best he can.

It should be noted that while Chronister is Republican, he is not an ideologue.

“The right’s gone way too far right for me,” he told the Tampa Bay Times last year. “So where does that leave a lot of Republicans — a lot of people?”

Well, it leaves Chronister with a primary challenge in August from the right.

Former Hillsborough Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Boswell has entered the race. In an interview with Florida Politics, he called Chronister “a far-left radical.”

That label could explain why Chronister did some fence-mending with Howard-Browne recently. He went to the pastor’s home for a meal and a chat about reopening the county.

The meeting sounded cordial, even though the misdemeanor charge against Howard-Browne is pending.

“I met with Pastor Howard-Browne to discuss the future, not the past,” Chronister told the Times. “We have committed to moving forward together.”

You know what they say: Blessed are the peacemakers.

Also, blessed are those who play smart politics.

I wrote at the time that Howard-Browne deserved to be arrested, and I still believe that. Still, despite potential misgivings about playing politics with a guy you just arrested, the outreach was a smooth move by the Sheriff.

Maybe it calms the jittery nerves of some conservatives who see Chronister as a RINO – Republican In Name Only. It probably gets Howard-Browne off his back. And even if it doesn’t, well, Chronister tried.

He also has about $1 million for his reelection campaign, along with a lot of cross-over support.

Translation: Chronister will be tough to beat.

But this episode tells us something else, too.

Despite what some hardline party people might prefer, law officers don’t get to enforce only those rules with which they agree. The law isn’t red, or blue, or any shade in between.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Dan

    May 12, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Joe, as a Socialist you should understand the separation of Church & State. You can’t give nor deny worship, especially those practicing safe distancing… The Sheriff is a Socialist Tyrant practicing anything to stop Christians from worshiping. So, the courts through his case out of court, fully justified.

  • John Kociuba

    May 12, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Marbury v Madison 1803

    “Any order given by a President, Judge, Governor, Mayor that conflicts with the United States Constitution is an unlawful order null void.

    Government agencies have become so massive and expensive a President cannot manage them. No one can manage Homeland Insecurity at 75 Billion a year with countries other agencies attached.

    Protect the Constitution from ALL enemies foreign and domestic!


  • Edward

    May 12, 2020 at 11:43 pm

    Oh Joe what else would I expect from you and the rag you write for. First, it was not a law he was enforcing. Second, the governor amended his order to specifically exclude churches because on his first order he did not think that a local sheriff would interpret it to eviscerate the First Amendment. Chornister however proved to be that special kind of stupid and the Governor had to clarify his order for low IQ Chad.

    Conservatives are for law and order. The highest law of this nation is the Constitution. When an unlawful order is given that violates the Constitution we are under no obligation to follow it. I realize you are nothing more than a journalist with no education in or understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. You are nothing more that a liberal hack journalist that has never written an unbiased story in the past 40 years.

    The Tampa Times will not exist in 5 years and the bailout money they took from the government only bought them a little time. The days of hacks like Joe’s masquerading as journalists will end when the paper finally goes out of business in the next few years. It cant happen soon enough. .

  • Rich obrien

    May 14, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    So the socialist writing this post doesn’t know that chronister is on the Hillsborough county emergency policy group, thus he votes for the policies and then turns around and enforces them.

  • Mollie Powell

    May 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    It is laughable to say Chronister is really a Republican. He switched parties after being a lifelong Democrat because he knew his political leanings wouldn’t be welcomed as the top county law enforcement. He donated $5,000 to the Democrat Party of Hillsborough County last year while giving the Republican Party of Hillsborough County ZERO dollars. He was invited to speak to county Republicans and was a no show TWICE. He did drive down to Wimauma and promised a group of illegal immigrants they had nothing to fear-if they were ever arrested in Hillsborough County for a criminal offense, they would not be turned over to ICE, declaring Hillsborough a Sanctuary County. He didn’t bother to check the background of a felon who in 2018 was convicted of “Felon in Possession of a Firearm” and turned the guy out onto the citizens of Hillsborough County. Within 24 hours, that “low level, non violent” inmate committed a murder. He held a press conference and stated he didn’t have Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne arrested at the church because “there is an arsenal of weapons there” which was a outrageous lie which has endangered every student attending school there and every family attending church at the River. He is a Social Justice Warrior in a uniform. Bad governance gets citizens killed. Chronister is the poster boy for bad governance. He brings NOTHING but money to the table. The citizens of Hillsborough County will never be safe with this man in office.

Comments are closed.


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