Search and Rescue: This year our Search and Rescue had six (6) active call outs. In the fall of 2015, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue conducted a major search for Luke Richardson, a missing local hiker. Over nine days, BCSAR managed and coordinated with 14 different local, state and federal agencies, utilizing K9 teams, mountaineering teams and trained SAR personnel to extensively search 51 aerial square miles of rugged terrain through varying weather conditions. Teams searched elevations from 6,500 feet to 11,865 feet, a vertical gain of 5,345 feet, both on foot and with the aid of air support. Although the hiker wasn’t recovered until after the official search was suspended, the training and leadership of the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Blaine County Search and Rescue, was more than apparent. With over 2000 man hours, there were no injuries to any searchers involved, nor was there aircraft or equipment lost. The search was followed across the country.
To be mission ready Blaine County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue has worked hard to find funding to train, update equipment, and maintain our abilities. This year we applied for and were awarded two grants; the “100 Men Who Care” Organization awarded BCSAR $5,700 to purchase a drone and the “Wood River Women’s Foundation” has awarded $21,500 to purchase a tracked utility type vehicle (UTV). Both of these items had to be borrowed during the Richardson search and will be invaluable tools going forward. BCSAR also reached out to the community for donations and received approximately $35,000. With these generous donations, we have been able to purchase a new updated snowmobile, ensure that all of our equipment is properly maintained, and continue ongoing training our 50 plus active volunteers.
Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET): Our Narcotics Enforcement Team has been very successful in effecting the flow of illegal drugs in our community. In 2015-2016 we have had over forty-five (45) cases involving investigations which resulted in the arrest of the seller, purchaser, or user of a controlled substance after an extended investigations.
We have had three (3) significant NET cases this fiscal year worth highlighting:
The first case involved the arrest of a Ketchum resident after purchasing over a quarter pound of Cocaine from him. A subsequent search warrant executed on this individual’s home, produced an additional two (2) pounds of Cocaine and four (4) pounds of Marijuana. This arrest led to an investigation in which NET members traveled to California, where an additional search warrant was executed on a another suspect’s residence which produced over nine (9) pounds of Cocaine and the arrest of two more individuals. Further investigation led to a traffic stop in southern Utah where another pound of Cocaine was seized along with the arrest of the driver.
The second case involved a joint investigation with the Idaho State Police (ISP) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Ultimately, six individuals were arrested for narcotics and weapons charges. Several firearms were seized in search warrants along with multiple pounds of Methamphetamine and several ounces of Cocaine and Marijuana.
The third case involves a joint investigation with ISP, ATF and DEA. The case is still active, but so far, multiple arrests have been made along with the seizure of multiple pounds of Methamphetamine and several firearms. As a result of these successful arrests we are anticipating substantial forfeiture funds for Blaine County in the next year from seizures made in partnership with the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. NET is proud to be making a difference in our community and our world. In total these cases included:
- SUSPECTS: 45
- Methamphetamine Seized: 15 pounds
- Cocaine Seized: 12 pounds
- Heroin: 2.5 pounds
- Marijuana: 10 pounds
- LSD: 67 Tabs (doses)
- Prescriptions: Large quantity of several different prescription pills
- Firearms: 3 Handguns/1 Rifle/2 Shotguns
- Search Warrants Executed: 7
Community Connectivity: Our Community Connectivity Plan, now in its second year, utilizes our website and internet based social media to communicate public safety information and operational services information to our citizens efficiently, effectively, and in a timely manner. The major accomplishment of this past year is the a new Sheriff’s Office website that was brought online with modern functionality, up to date information on our public services, and new reports on recent arrests and the jail roster. Our full service website provides current information on our activities including press releases, search and rescue, disaster services, driver’s licensing, concealed weapons permits, civil processing and sales, victim notification, records request, and career opportunities. We provide links for public safety information, to search for sex offenders, or to sign up for the Blaine County Alert Notification System. A Blaine County Status box on the home page can be used in an emergency to get urgent information out to the public who do not utilize Facebook. The creation of this website took significant man hours and coordination, but the results have been rewarding. We have had 43,704 visits to our website by 13,747 different users since its launch, with 62% of those visits by mobile users. We have received numerous compliments on both the functionality and the clean appearance of the site. The beauty of Blaine County is featured as the back drop of each web page courtesy of local photographer Nils Ribi.
Our Community Connectivity Plan also includes the use of social media. We take pride in reaching our citizens with important and timely information; 57% of our social media posts provide public safety information, 15% provide customer service information, and 28% feature our own BCSO news. Since starting our Facebook page in 2014, we have had over 1.1 million views. During last fall’s search for the lost hiker, we utilized social media to help us quickly locate leads and information to help searchers refine their search area and save valuable time. The Luke Richardson search had over 317,565 views from people all over the United States, proving the power of this modern communication tool. We have received positive feedback that the public is appreciative of the helpful information we provide. We are continuing to develop our Community Connectivity Plan to respond to social change and optimize public accessibility to county services and information.
POST Instructors: Our team members continue to expand their professional development to yield positive outcomes for the Sheriff’s Office. One great example is our deputies who become POST certified instructors in specific disciplines. Team members are able to grow in their positions, take on more responsibility, as well as teach the deputies they work hand in hand with out on the street. As more team members become instructors, especially in high liability areas, it benefits this office in a savings to our training and travel budget line items, allows for regular trainings to occur, improves consistency and reduce accidents. We currently have 16 post certified instructors in 14 disciplines.
Bullet Proof Vests: For the third year, we have utilized the BPV grant which pays 50% of the cost of our Bullet Proof Vests. For the safety of our officers, these vests must be replaced every five years at a cost of approximately $850 each. This funding has helped us maintain our current rotation of body armor, increase officer safety, and reduce risk liability while minimizing county costs.
Retention: Employee retention is very important, due to the cost and the amount time it takes for deputies to become certified. Traditionally, the Sheriff’s Office has seen more staff turnover during periods when the unemployment rate is lower, and we lose employees to higher wage opportunities. Blaine County’s unemployment rate was 3.7% in April, 2016. We are very pleased to currently have a full department staff of dedicated individuals.
Sheriff Lunch Program: The Sheriff’s School Lunch Program began in our Ketchum Police Division in 2009. This program was developed as a community policing program to promote positive and lasting relationships between the police and elementary school children by sharing lunch at local schools. Throughout the school year, Ketchum deputies eat lunch weekly with children at Hemingway Elementary School. In the beginning of 2016, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office expanded this program to include Hailey Elementary and the Carey School. Since January, BCSO deputies have eaten lunch 1-2 times a week to promote positive interactions with the students. Our deputies have reported positive results of the program and have received compliments from parents and school officials about the impact on the children. The children really enjoy this contact with positive role models and recognize the deputies around the community in or out of uniform. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office strongly believes in the importance of building these positive interactions with our children and citizens.
Special Patrols: In addition to the regular patrol operations, which include answering calls for service and keeping the highways safe for Blaine County residents and visitors, the Sheriff’s Office has conducts several other special patrols including marine patrol, forest patrol, and back country snowmobile patrol. This year we received a new grant from the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation in the amount of $3,037 for off highway all-terrain vehicle patrols. The funds can be used for wages and other direct costs such as fuel, equipment, capital, and ATV/OHV education. The IDPR also provides $8,500 in state funding for our waterways grant to cover all of the costs associated with the marine patrol program. Blaine County has two lakes and two reservoirs that allow for motorized use: Alturas Lake, Pettit Lake, Magic Reservoir, and Little Wood Reservoir. The Sheriff’s Office has sole responsibility for education and enforcement of the laws associated with recreation on the water. During the summer months, our Marine Deputies teach a boat safety class, called Boat Idaho, and share educational pamphlets with boaters. Marine Deputies install safety buoys and cordon off a designated swim area at Alturas Lake. The Sheriff’s office receives federal funding from the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct forest patrols in the Ketchum Ranger district and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). These patrols provide for public safety, protection of private and federal property, and enforce Idaho State Law. Forest patrols may include some special additional enforcement situations such as fire emergencies, drug enforcement, and certain group gatherings.
Ketchum Police Division of BCSO
Community Policing: The Ketchum Division’s Community Policing Programs have continued to improve and develop over the years. Now in their seventh year, the Hemingway Police Field Day, Ketchum Police Bike Rodeo, Crosswalk Enforcement Program, Ketchum Bike Patrol Unit and Homeowner’s Security Checks have helped to form positive relationships with the citizens of Ketchum. KPD deputies also understand the importance of interaction with children and it has become common to see deputies visiting students and having lunch at Hemingway Elementary as part of the Sheriff’s Lunch Program. The presence of deputies during school drop off and pick up times each day during the school year is a continued priority. Our children’s programs specifically encourage volunteers and community participation, part of what makes our programs so worthwhile. These Community Policing Programs are fundamental in promoting the lifestyle and values of our city.
Hands Free Cell Phone Ordinance: The Ketchum Police Division worked with the City of Ketchum to draft and pass an ordinance restricting driver’s use of hand held electronic devices. Distracted driving is defined as anything that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind off of driving. It is the leading cause of serious vehicle crashes. A driver’s use of a hand held electronic device encompasses all three types of distraction. The enforcement of this ordinance will make the roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and other motor vehicle operators. Ketchum is the second city in the State of Idaho to have an ordinance of this type and the only city that makes it a primary offense.
Body Cameras: This past year we purchased four WatchGuard body cameras. The use of body cameras is intended to enhance the mission of the Ketchum Division by accurately capturing contacts between members of the Office and the public. The body cameras are valuable for documenting evidence, preventing and resolving complaints, officer training, and strengthening deputies’ performance and accountability. This important advancement in policing will help improve the quality of service of the Ketchum Division.
Updated Vehicle Computers: This year the Ketchum Division upgraded their aging car computer systems with Dell tablets. The lower cost of the tablets allowed us to purchase four tablets for the price of one laptop computer. Tablet technology has opened the door to increased productivity and efficiency that goes beyond our officers patrol cars.
Blaine County Detention Center
Jail Inspection: For the 8th year in a row the Detention Center passed our Jail Inspection and will be certified with the Idaho Sheriff’s Association in partnership with ICRMP and our Idaho Jail Standards. The detention center kitchen is in full compliance with the South Central Public Health District. We are very proud of the culture that has been created here in our Detention Center, which is respected around the state. Our team members support our culture and work hard to make it a reality.
Out of County Housing: We continue to work with other agencies and IDOC to house out of county inmates, assisting those agencies with overcrowding issues they continually face. Since we began holding out of county inmates in the Blaine County Detention Center in FY09 to April 2016, we have brought in $3,631,470 in out of county housing revenue alone. In FY15, out of county housing revenue brought in $668,580, exceeding our projection by $318,580. We have already exceeded our projection for FY16 and plan on continuing our relationships with other agencies and IDOC into the future. Housing revenue has been a great help with the general fund, and we are proud to be able to generate funding which benefits the tax payers, the county, the Sheriff’s Office, and all other departments within the county.
Jail Programs: We are very proud of the success of our Inmate Cognitive Behavioral Change Programs. Over the last 8 years, our programs have served 776 inmates in 12,278 classes, focusing on anger management, drug and alcohol education, moral reconation therapy, and literacy. 63% of inmates have completed the 10 week courses and 69% have continued on to advanced curriculum. Literacy students see an average of 20% increase in their reading scores. These programs are engineered to give the inmates the tools needed to help change their lives and help them thrive as responsible citizens in the community. We believe our programs are a useful and efficient tool towards this end.