Sunday, April 29, 2012

Boise County Primary Races


Sheriff

The other interesting contest is Boise County Sheriff.  When my wife and I first ran into Ben Roeber in 2008 at a campaign event, he was so baby-faced that some of us wondered if he was old enough to drive yet. He doesn't look like that anymore.  He got married in the meantime, and is now doing budgets and other desk work--and he doesn't look so young.  He needs to be hitting the gym, or he is going to be in big trouble in a few more years.  But I was quite impressed with what he said, and how he handled tough questions.

First of all, he is much more articulate than I was expecting.  He also emphasized that before he became sheriff, his total budget experience was as a coach, where he was responsible for $1500.  Now he's responsible for a million dollar plus budget, and for all the criticism from his opponent, I don't think he's done a bad job of it.

Now, what impressed me with Roeber's answers was that he was answering questions that some people would doubtless call a bit crazy, and he managed to answer those questions diplomatically, and without pandering.  Several questions were concerning federal law enforcement agencies operating in the county.  As you might expect, Roeber was asked if he was prepared to protect the citizens of Boise County against federal law enforcement agencies.  I don't remember exactly how the question was asked, but it was essentially the idea that federal law enforcement is perilously close to a criminal organization.  

Roeber, instead of promising to call in air strikes as soon as the feds cross the boundaries of the Duchy of Boise (as I sense some in this county want), explained that where he used to get sometimes fifteen minutes warning that federal law enforcement was carrying out an operation, he now gets many months notice and requests for coordination and assistance.  He was careful to emphasize that he would not allow a clear violation of citizens' rights to take place, but was careful to phrase it in a way that showed that he knows that it would have to be a clear violation.  I also get the impression that Roeber is smart enough to know that one sheriff of a podunk county might not be very successful taking on the federal government, all by himself.

Another question was about the drone that Canyon County now has provided to them by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The questioner, I got the impression, wanted some sort of statement that Boise County would refuse such, or perhaps use Stingers to take them out of the air.  (Some of these questions sounded like someone listens to Art Bell too much.)  Roeber, with an appropriate smile, indicated that he just couldn't imagine what possible use Boise County Sheriff's Department would make of such equipment, even if the federal government gave us the money.

By comparison, outgoing county commissioner Terry Day wants Roeber's job.  Day is much older (he's even older than me).  Day was a deputy sheriff, the chief deputy, and even acting sheriff at various times in the past.  Day's response to the federal law enforcement and drone questions was, by comparison, a bit disturbing.  I would like to think that Day actually believes what he said, but if not, the pandering really isn't particularly useful.  There may be genuine reasons to worry about the federal government getting too big for its britches (as I will discuss concerning the guy running for prosecutor), but there are enough people already one fry short of a Happy Meal concerning the coming revolution to encourage these sentiments, especially when you are running for sheriff.

Day seems to think that Roeber isn't spending the county's money wisely.  He listed several things that he would do immediately, including:

1. Move all maintenance and minor repair of the patrol vehicles into Boise County.  (Right now, the Ford dealer in Boise, which is in Ada County, does this.)

2. Hire new deputies in a Community Oriented Policing system, where they would have to be residents of the part of the county that was their beat.  They would be expected to be attending a variety of meetings to become familiar with the people in their beat.

I confess that I have some concerns about both of these.  It may well be that getting maintenance and minor repair done locally would be a good thing for the local economy, but there simply aren't that many auto repair facilities in this county.  The only one we had in Horseshoe Bend just closed--and I have been told some stories about that place so shockingly shoddy that I will not repeat them.  

Community Oriented Policing is a fine idea, but while this can work in big cities, this is Boise County.  Some concerns that I have include:

1. Do we have enough qualified people?  There are 7200 people in this whole county.  Many of them are retirees.  Deputy sheriffs have to complete the Police Officers Standards Training (POST), and to my knowledge, this isn't easy.  By the time you get done weeding out those who are prohibited because of criminal record or psychological unfitness for the job, there may not even be anyone in some parts of this county who could qualify, or would be interested in the job.

2. Any time you reduce the size of your hiring pool, you increase what you will have to pay to hire someone.  Right now, a number of our deputies live in other counties.  We get to hire from a fairly large pool.  What happens when we reduce the pool from 250,000 people to 7200?

3. It is a really neat idea for a deputy to know intimately the community intimately which he polices--but there are times that this also means cozy relationships that sometimes interfere with the professionalism and objectivity that a police officer should have.

County Prosecutor

There are two people running for county prosecutor: Ian Gee and Garry Gilman.  Terwilliger, our current prosecutor, is not running for re-election, and I am very glad to hear that.  I wasn't around long enough to hear what Gee had to say, but Gilman had an interesting story to tell.  He went to law school because of what he described as eminent domain abuse in Utah against his home.  He worked on Randy Weaver's defense team, and had a few stories to tell about Lon Horiuchi (the FBI sniper who shot Mrs. Weaver's head off while she was armed with a baby).  It is clear that while he isn't going to lead the independent Duchy of Boise, he would not be at all reluctant to file criminal charges against any law enforcement officer who clearly broke the law--nor does he find that prospect particularly implausible.

Gilman has been an attorney for 34 years, including seven years as a deputy prosecutor, and (if my memory serves me right) two years as a deputy prosecutor in Boise County.  I don't know anything about his opponent, but I would not be upset if Gilman won the election.  (And yes, I was upset when Terwilliger won the election in 2008.)

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