As of Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Contentious and gutter-scraping: the political race for Idaho County sheriff.
Beyond watching the mud fly to see what sticks, of more pressing and difficult concern is the issue of recent endorsement ads for both candidates that involve law enforcement members of county and city policing agencies.
We don’t hit this lightly.
We agree with Grangeville Mayor Bruce Walker’s opinion. We agree that members of the city police department may engage in political speak. That’s their constitutional right and one that isn’t curtailed when they take on the responsibility inherent with the badge. Furthermore, it was done properly, without stated ties to the municipality (no logos, individuals in uniform, or mention of city affiliation).
The same goes with a recent Sheriff Gidding’s endorsement ad that included several members of his department on the roster. Nothing here violated the department policy they abide by.
Here are the problems.
• Post-election working relations between city and county agencies.
With officers and chiefs of both Grangeville and Cottonwood police departments on board with Carlos Martinez, what happens – come Nov. 9 — if there’s a Giddings’ win? There are obvious issues with trust and policing policy implied within the Martinez ad, and considering officers took such a public stand, it’s not likely city-county relationships could easily or quickly mend.
• ICSO internal operations.
With internal division already existing concerning the race, how much further is the problem and dissent compounded by some ICSO members’ support of the incumbent? What about the relationships between staff and supervisors? How is the overall ICSO mission compromised?
• Public perception
With the split loyalties exhibited and the fractured relationships laid open, what are Idaho County residents to think about the state and effectiveness of their law enforcement agencies? Within rural Idaho County, we as individuals and groups draw upon limited and finite resources, and so depend upon each other. We’d expect no less cooperation and collaboration between our policing agencies.
With the exhibition of professional dissatisfaction between and within these agencies, residents can be justified in concerns of whether law enforcement – investigation of their concerns and criminal cases — will be handicapped or even thwarted due to such a loss of trust.
Ethically and morally, these endorsements are just. Professionally, however, they intrude politics and perceptions into agencies designed to deal with “Just the facts, ma’am.” As a result, it hampers their mission mechanically, and it creates public perception problems that will impact their effectiveness in the community for the long term.