As of Tuesday, September 11, 2018
County law enforcement recently spread the word – and multiple citations – that illegal drug use won’t be tolerated where the public recreates.
An emphasis patrol conducted Aug. 24-26 on U.S. Highway 12 by the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office resulted in 11 people cited on 23 total misdemeanors, most of which were possession of drugs and paraphernalia, and alcohol-related charges. All those involved were adults, mostly residents from Washington and Montana, who were cited and released.
All the marijuana possession charges were of misdemeanor amounts, which by law constitutes less than three ounces.
According to ICSO Detective Brian Hewson, six personnel – in plain clothes and in unmarked vehicles — conducted the sweeps at Weir and Jerry Johnson hot springs (mileposts 142 and 151, respectively).
“We do receive complaints,” he said of drug use at these popular recreation areas located on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. “Families use these facilities, but they’ll see this activity and it discourages them from using the hot springs up there. So, they’ll call and complain.”
The patrol included the department’s narcotics dog, Nation, handled by ICSO Corporal Mike Chlebowski, using the canine to work parking areas for vehicles that may contain illegal substances. Chlebowski started training Nation in September 2016, and she was certified for narcotics detection in March 2017. Working in a group of six, he said, allowed officers the efficiency to continue to run the canine while deputies followed up with owners of vehicles the dog alerted on.
“We’ve been questioned on the legality of this,” Hewson said, explaining that, “If we’re in a public parking lot and the K9 alerts, by law, we’re allowed to search the vehicle.”
The emphasis patrol was funded by the Forest Service, he said, which pays for hours spent and miles traveled for county deputies to conduct these activities within its jurisdictional boundaries. Their agency doesn’t have the resources to conduct such emphasis patrols, “so this helps them out, and it allows us to maintain a good working relationship with the Forest Service.”
Such patrols are conducted at random times in different locations, and some at events where they’ll have large public gatherings, such as during May’s Lochsa River Madness event east of Lowell. These continue, “until the snow flies,” he said, though they will continue to have some patrol activity during winter.
Though emphasis patrols are nothing new for the department, the public is still largely unaware of them, according to Hewson.
“Hopefully, people will start getting educated on these,” he said. “Eventually the word will get out that this is going on.”