From the June 2002 Idaho Observer:

Sheriff seizes control of county search & rescue

SANDPOINT -- In what appears to be the culmination of a two-year strategy by the Bonner County Sheriff's Department (BCSD) to take control of the county's volunteer search & rescue unit, Sheriff Phil Jarvis recently impounded equipment and deprogrammed radios that belong to Bonner County Sheriff Search & Rescue, Inc. (BCSSR). Members of the volunteer BCSSAR have been funding most of their own training and equipment purchases serving the community at minimal expense for 25 years. They are now prohibited from going out to help find their neighbors unless called upon by the sheriff, said Undersheriff Elaine Savage.

Sheriff Phil Jarvis is claiming that a provision in state law gives him the authority to take command of the county search & rescue. “Citing Idaho statutes (46-1009, 6) that makes the sheriff of each county responsible for coordinating all search and rescue activities within their jurisdiction, Phil Jarvis is attempting to split BCSSAR, moving the equipment and operations portion into his department. BCSSAR's position is that the unit cannot be divided; that it is an incorporated entity separate from BCSD but serving the people of Bonner County when requested through the Sheriff's Office. There are approximately 40 BCSSAR members dedicated to continuing this 25 year tradition of service,” commented unit Commander Ron Korn.

The question that has not been answered to the satisfaction of the BCSSAR is, “Why?” The closest thing to an answer is that the sheriff claims their was turmoil in the ranks. According to Korn all of the unit members get along fine. The only “turmoil” was caused by Bob Howard, the liaison who is a full time employee of the BCSD.

Also at issue is ownership of certain equipment. BCSSAR maintains that through a variety of sources, such as grants, donations and proceeds from fundraisers, it has purchased equipment. It was able to get good deals on certain equipment and vehicles with the help of the BCSD. Now the BCSD is attempting to claim that equipment for the sheriff-controlled search & rescue.

Though the BCSD still hasn't offered a decent reason for the changes, it is being implemented with the full approval of Bonner county government. Retired Bay Area career cop Tom Suttmeier commented for KSPT radio, “Unless Search and Rescue is operating under the sheriff's direction, the Search and Rescue organization is no better than a Militia.”

If there is something better for community defense than a militia, the Founding Fathers hadn't thought of it. Suttmeier used the term as if it's a four-letter-word. Suttmeier's pro-police, anti-community involvement stance was further indicated when he added, “The sheriff states that this all came about because the Search and Rescue organization refused to OBEY his directives.”

BCSSAR is assessing its options. It will stay intact and continue training because, “We will have a new sheriff in two years.”

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