Sessions invokes 'Anglo American heritage' of sheriff's office

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday brought up sheriffs' "Anglo-American heritage" during remarks to law enforcement officials in Washington.

"I want 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," Sessions said in remarks at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting, adding, "The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement."

"We must never erode this historic office," Sessions continued.

Invoking "Anglo-American heritage" seems to have been an impromptu decision by the attorney general. A written version of the remarks says that Sessions was supposed to say: "The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage."

The concept of the office of sheriff -- being an independent, elected law enforcement entity -- originates in Anglo-Saxon England. The word "sheriff" combines the Anglo-Saxon words "shire," meaning "county," and "reeve," meaning "guardian," Cato analyst David Kopel notes in The Washington Post.

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment.