Marijuana Grow Eradication: In August of 2012 the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office led a multi-jurisdictional task force comprised of federal, state, county and local law enforcement in an eradication operation in the Sawtooth National Forest. Over 60 law enforcement officers took down a major marijuana growing operation and removed an estimated 11,169 plants spread across 6 separate growing plots on three sites totaling approximately five acres on public land. The eradication process included the removal, documentation and destruction of the 11,169 marijuana plants which would have had an estimated mature plant street value of $27,750,000 dollars. Officers also removed the grow site debris including irrigation system tubing, chemicals, kitchen and camping materials and other trash. Packaging from rat poison, round up and other chemical fertilizers were found. Evidence collected at the scene is being utilized for identification of the subjects and the investigation is continuing. While several marijuana fields were eradicated by law enforcement on private property last year, this was the only grow operation found on public lands in Idaho. Officers from Blaine, Gooding and Camas County Sheriff’s Offices, Sun Valley and Ketchum Police Departments, Idaho National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Fish and Game, Bureau of Land Management and Drug Enforcement Administration took part in the outstanding inter-agency collaboration in all phases of this operation.
Paraglider Rescue: In August 2012 Blaine County Search and Rescue initiated a formal search for two pilots lost while competing in the Paragliding World Cup event, a weeklong international competition held in Sun Valley. Both pilots were reported missing during a planned flight course from Bald Mountain to Arco, approximately 60 miles. Juan Becerra of Venezuela was located approximately 8 hours later and no medical assistance was required. The search for Guy Anderson, a British citizen continued for over two days.
The Paragliding World Cup event personnel assisted in rescue operations both on the ground and at the command center, located at the Blaine County Public Safety Facility. Over 70 individuals were involved in the search for Anderson including many fellow pilots from the PWC competition, Civil Air Patrol, BCSO Officers and BCSAR volunteers. Mr. Anderson was located out Fish Creek at Bradsfield Canyon by an Idaho Army National Guard helicopter crew based out of Gowen Field. He was transported to Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey where he was met by ambulance. Mr. Anderson was treated for injuries to his left arm, ribs, spine and internal injuries but was fortunate to survive. The Sheriff’s Office is proud that our staff and volunteers are equipped, trained and very well prepared to be able to initiate, organize and successfully implement a life and death search and rescue operation.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC): Lessons learned from the massive Castle Rock Fire of 2007 identified a multi-jurisdictional need to establish a Blaine County Emergency Operations Center. Initially the plan was to create a mobile EOC which could be set up where ever needed. However, with the building of the Public Safety Facility, a permanent EOC was also established, with support locations located in other areas within the county campus. Equipment was funded by Home Land Security grants, PSF budget and the FF&E budget. This permenant EOC was created to ensure the county’s ability for quick emergency response as during a crisis time is of the essence and being prepared can make the difference in saving lives. Additionally the County identified a vital need to train and maintain the ability to set up and tear down the EOC quickly and accurately, test and identify shortcomings, and be prepared to go mobile with the EOC if necessary to protect the citizens of Blaine County. Developing a County-wide Emergency Operations Plan is a complex and ongoing process involving numerous stakeholders, agencies, and departments. As part of this process, this past year the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office planned, facilitated and completed an EOC training with the Bureau of Homeland Security and key staff members from the Recorder’s Office, Ketchum Police, and Sheriff Administration. The training was focused on the Web EOC software program offered by the State which provides a situational awareness of the essential roles in a major EOC situation. We continue to work to develop and institute a training plan, test the equipment and establish who and how each step will be accomplished using the Emergency Operations Plan as a guide. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to emergency preparedness and is working towards a complete and updated Blaine County Emergency Operations Plan.
Training Accomplishments: Law enforcement is a very specialized skill set which requires us to be prepared for anything at any moment. While we are very proud that our staff is equipped, trained and well prepared to protect the citizens of Blaine County, it is an area where we must remain vigilant. Our officer training program is crucial to maintaining this professionalism. The FTO process is a 12 week intense one-on-one training that helps train our new officers for the many challenges ahead and gives them the tools to be able to make good decisions in the field. Our training program allows us to plan, prepare and respond to the economic, social and environmental changes that affect our community. We strive to keep our Command Staff up to date on the changing trends in law enforcement and adapt our training as necessary to maintain this professionalism. We seek out grant funds to assist in this training as they become available. The following is a synopsis of our training accomplishments this year:
- Active Shooter Training: We continue to provide Active Shooter training to both our current and all our new patrol staff to increase their preparation for this type of very dangerous unplanned incident. Should we have an active shooter incident at a school or any other location in Blaine County, it is imperative that our deputies are prepared to respond and engage the active shooter by attempting to isolate the situation rather than wait for our specialty team and run the risk of further causalities.
- Hostage Negotiator Training: We continue to develop our Hostage Negotiation Team and have added additional members to this highly specialized unit who can be activated should the need arise. With the number of internationally famous visitors our County hosts annually, we feel it is incumbent to be prepared for such a situation.
- Field Training Officer: As we continue to develop our Field Training Officer Program, we have combined all of the branches of the Sheriff’s Office into one FTO team to maintain consistency in our training program. This team is dedicated to setting clear employee performance and evaluation standards and strives, not only to uphold these standards but, to exceed them.
- S.E.R.T. (SWAT) Training: As a result of having running gun battles within the city of Ketchum and county during the Odiaga shootings, we developed and have maintained an effective S.E.R.T. (Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team) to better handle high risk critical incidents. Virtually unheard of in small communities at the time of its inception, our capabilities have kept the County safe for almost three decades. The Sheriff’s Office continues to maintain a group of officers capable of responding to emergencies outside the normal response of typical law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) trains 16 hours per month and one week a year to maintain their response capabilities to deal with lethal weapon situations that may threaten the life or safety of the citizens of this County.
- Problem Based Domestic Violence Training: This training was brought to Hailey in order to update all of our patrol deputies on the current trends in domestic violence training. It included a review of recent changes in investigation requirements and state statutes, and required all participants to partake in scenario situations to enhance officer safety in this extremely hazardous type of call for service.
- Suicide by Cop Training: Blaine County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain and National Critical Incident Stress Management Team Member Tito Rivera was able assist Idaho State Police Region 4 Chaplain Jim O’Donnell in teaching a Suicide by Cop training. This training provided officers with information to be able to potentially identify and handle situations in which a subject may be interested in killing themselves or placing themselves into a situation in which an officer is forced to use deadly force to protect another person or even themselves. This training also included to look for in people who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.
- Critical Incident Task Force Training (CITF): This training was taught by local officers who are members of the Region 4 Critical Incident Task Force Investigation Team. This training introduced officers to the protocols in place should a critical incident occur, like an officer involved shooting.
- Crash Scene Safety Training: The Idaho State Police presented training on the importance of crash scene safety to local law enforcement, fire, EMS, and transportation employees. This training stressed the importance of managing a safe crash scene for all first responders, while maintaining traffic flow and/or re-opening the highway at the soonest practical chance to provide as little disruption to the normal traffic flow as possible.
- Child Abuse Training: During this training, officers were given a more in-depth look at the relationship between domestic violence and the corresponding sexual abuse which commonly accompanies it. Officers were trained on how to better question and follow-up with both victims and suspects in domestic violence calls, as well as how to handle stalking calls which may evolve into sexual assault cases.
700 Megahertz Communication Plan: Through multiple grants, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office has been responsible for the purchase of 80 portable and 20 mobile 700 MHz radios for patrol personnel comprising the five law enforcement entities within Blaine County: Bellevue Marshal’s Division, Ketchum Police Division, Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, Hailey Police, and Sun Valley Police. Three of the four repeaters sites which make up the “backbone” of the new 700 MHz Interoperable Shared Radio System are complete and have received all licensing necessary to execute the Interoperable Emergency Communication Plan. The Sheriff’s Office has assisted fire interoperability by providing at least two 700 MHz portable radios to each fire department within Blaine County: Bellevue Fire, Carey Fire, Hailey Fire, Ketchum Fire, Sun Valley Fire and Wood River Fire and Rescue. This new radio system has enhanced the communications between agencies and will keep the emergency entities better informed and communications more secure.