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Op-Ed: I Am the Change

By • May 19, 2024

It must be said.

The culture of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office needs an overhaul.

From the most cursory look the mission statement is uninspiring and the website does not educate the public on the Sheriff’s primacy as The People’s Guardian. Therefore, the citizens’ expectation of the Sheriff is lower than it should be. Furthermore, the training of deputies does not teach what distinguishes them from police officers.

The agency is not pro-active enough fighting crime. I wrote the proposal to form the first Gang Unit for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office. It was very successful. I will bring the Gang Unit back in light of the population explosion and uptick in Gang Violence in the Treasure Valley. Help me stop the Slide to Seattle and Portland.

Culturally, the agency is introverted and stagnant due to a thirty-year practice of handing the baton internally through an appointment process from one sheriff to the next.

A History of Succession over Election

Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen stepped down handing the baton to Sheriff Gary Raney who stepped down handing the baton to Sheriff Steve Bartlett who stepped down abruptly mid-term under a cloud and gave the nod to Matt Clifford who was appointed Sheriff — against the will of the 2021 Ada County Republican Central Committee (ACRCC). Republican Commissioner Rod Beck was the deciding vote. He sided with the Democrat Commissioner Kendra Kenyon appointing Clifford who was the last ranked of three candidates. I was the #1 ranked candidate.

The ACRCC saw the need for new blood, but their #1 and #2 ranked candidates for appointment were passed over, thereby continuing the pattern of internal succession.

Over the same thirty years this appointment (succession) practice also happened in the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Greg Bower stepped down handing the baton to Jan Bennetts to continue his legacy.

I know of the strategies, “office politics,” protections, backroom meetings, and staged optics employed including rapid promotion(s) in rank to bolster the image of some of these heirs prior to appointment. None of them had to campaign or debate for their first seat and subsequently became incumbents. In contrast, the Ada County Coroner, Ada County Treasurer, Ada County Assessor, Ada County Clerk, and Ada County Commissioners have not operated in this insulated way.

It is time “We the People” elect our Sheriff. It is time to build an oath-centered, more proactive culture by identifying blind spots and raising the bar of service and competence in the face of a population explosion.

Making the Case for Change

Event #1
Date: March 15, 2021
Location: Ada County Courthouse
Term: Sheriff Bartlett

Summary: Two citizens were arrested at the front door of the courthouse on FTA warrants (failure to appear) issued by Judge Manweiler after they refused to wear masks, were therefore denied entry and the jury dismissed. The citizens were arrested and dragged through the very doors they were denied entry — unmasked.

The conduct by Judge Manweiler and the deputies violated Article 1, Section 18 of the Idaho Constitution and Amendment VI of the Constitution for the United States of America.


Section 18. Justice to be freely and speedily administered. Courts of justice shall be open to every person, and a speedy remedy afforded for every injury of person, property or character, and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, delay, or prejudice.

The proper course of conduct would have been for Sheriff Bartlett to honor his oath by ordering Chief Deputy Scott Johnson (who had functional command of the evolving situation) to have deputies deliver the two citizens —without delay—to the courtroom without masks and thereby without prejudice. The oath of office is not to a judge. The oath is to the Constitution of the State of Idaho and the Constitution for the United States. When Sheriffs do not put their oath in action by interposing, the Constitution is rendered toothless and government unrestrained. The egregious conduct on that day crystallizes this point. I will teach my deputies what The Oath means, why we take it, and what it looks like in action.

Ada County Republican Precinct 1614 Committeewoman, Jackie Davidson, documented the following regarding a question she posed to Matt Clifford about the conduct of the Sheriff’s Office on that day in an email:

“In mid-March of 2021, there was an assault on the public in front of the Ada County Courthouse. This was perpetrated by Chief Deputy Scott Johnson of the Ada County Sheriff’s Department. This assault on peaceful protestors resulted in one man being thrown down on the ground and leaving via an ambulance, a woman being choked around her neck by an Ada County Sheriff, and an older man with Parkinson’s disease targeted by police and sheriffs and charged with 3 felonies. Not to mention the charges of failure to appear on the gentlemen trying to get to his court appointment.

In mid-June of 2021, it came upon the Precinct Committeemen in Ada County to nominate 3 people for the new Sheriff. There was a meeting where we could go around and ask questions. I asked every candidate the same question.

Concerning the recent incident where the Ada County Sheriff’s department assaulted the public at the Ada County Courthouse under Scott Johnson, what would you have done differently?

Matt Clifford responded: I know about that incident, and I would have done nothing differently. I have all the respect for whatever Scott Johnson did.

Doug Traubel responded: I would have taken the people needing to get to their court appointment down the hall personally to the courtroom.

Needless to say, I was very impressed by Doug Traubel. He would have followed the constitution. I believed it was urgent that he become the next Sheriff.”

– Jackie Davidson ACRCC Precinct Committeewoman 1614

Event #2
Dates: 2015 through 2022
Location: Ada County Sheriff’s Office
Terms: Sheriff Raney, Sheriff Bartlett, Sheriff Clifford

Summary: From 2015 through 2022 the Ada County Sheriff’s Office had a relationship with the MacArthur Foundation and received $1,450,000 in grants that influenced the culture by entertaining their premise about disparate incarceration rates of “minorities” and the (ostensibly) related influence of implicit bias in the ranks. The last grant was issued in 2021 and stretched over 2.5 years carrying it into Sheriff Clifford’s term. Sheriff Clifford did not divorce from the relationship with the MacArthur Foundation he inherited, nor did he eliminate Implicit Bias training or the two employees promoting its premise: Criminal Justice Community Engagement Coordinator, Kristin MacLeod and Data Analytics and Intelligence Manager Chris Saunders.

Consequence: Implicit Bias training purports to reveal subconscious bias, but in fact insists the deputy/officer has it. The training seeds timidity, slows reaction time, and crushes proactive policing attitudes toward suspicious behavior when exhibited by “minorities.” On January 15, 2019, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office virtue signaled by boasting on its Facebook page teaching the course at the Idaho State Police Academy to other agencies. In the post is a definition of Implicit Bias from the Kirwan Institute for The Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University: “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.”

Some law enforcement agency heads are true believers in Implicit Bias and some only teach the course as an arrow in the quiver for an affirmative defense to inevitable allegations of institutionalized racism. Having this topic on the yearly training calendar is “credit in the bank” when accused of racism and bigotry. Even a purely risk management driven embrace of Implicit Bias training is damaging to an agency’s culture.

Implicit Bias training instills worry in deputies that their administration will question the motives of a self-initiated contact when the optics look bad in the court of public opinion. Indoctrinated deputies second guess the decision to initiate an investigative detention of a person labeled “oppressed” or “marginalized” in the social justice narrative. The same goes for a decision to control the movement of the person detained. Reaction time is slowed. Second guessing is dangerous for officer safety and public safety. This cancer must be cut out of the culture and replaced with the Golden Rule.

Event #3
Date: 6/15/2022
Location: Star, Idaho
Term: Sheriff Clifford

Summary: Star deputies responded to a call for service regarding thirty-nine-year-old Jeremy Banach who was trespassing in the backyard of his parents’ home. The reporting party, Skip Banach, told deputies (“Star Police”) his son had a knife. Deputies were positioned outside the fenced yard while other deputies equipped with a ballistic shield and guns at the low ready contacted Jeremy and built a rapport.

A video of the event was released for public consumption. As a thirty-two-year veteran peace officer and trainer of firearms and tactics, I see the video as an indictment of negligence. Specifically, it verifies the knowledge and observations of the deputies that Jeremy was armed not with a knife, but a “gun” and “…appeared disoriented and intoxicated.”

There was ample cause to separate Jeremy from the gun while properly detained and contained in the yard and then investigate reasonable suspicion of a crime: being intoxicated with a concealed firearm (IC 18-3302 B), and/or evaluate for a mental hold.

Jeremy was permitted to walk away — with the gun. One deputy told Jeremy, “Just don’t reach for your gun and you’re good man. You can go.” After Jeremy left the property Skip Banach was told by deputies that he had a gun, not a knife. Skip told deputies the gun was likely one stolen from him three days before. Deputies then worked to locate Jermey who ultimately pointed the gun to his head while walking away disobeying commands.

According to Valley County Prosecutor Brian Naugle, Jeremy “…was an immediate threat to deputies and members of the public nearby…” when Deputy Woodcook shot him.

Had deputies investigated their initial observations that Jeremy appeared “…disoriented AND intoxicated” during the initial contact, the outcome would have been different.

In a post on the Ada County Sheriff Website dated March 14, 2023, the second to the last paragraph reads,

“The report of the stolen gun — a felony—combined with Banach’s behavior, demeanor, and history of drug abuse were concerning for Star Police.”

Why weren’t those factors “concerning” for “Star Police” in the backyard before Jeremy was permitted to walk away with the gun?

Had the gun been taken away from Jeremy in the fenced yard it is likely it would have been determined to be stolen when the serial number was run. Why was the call handled this way? Does it reflect a lack of training, supervision, initiative, discernment, or the knowledge of fundamentals?

A documentary on this tragic event was produced. It is called A Cry For Help and can be found on the Web.

Event #4
Date: 1/17/2023
Location: Kuna “Police Station”
Term: Sheriff Clifford

Summary: Seventy-year-old Mick Heikkola went to the Kuna station to dispose of old medications. Upon arrival, he looked through the windows of two parked (county) cars. Deputies confronted Mr. Heikkola who was not entirely cooperative with commands to show his hands and then entered the station where he disposed of the medicine. Deputies forced him out of the station and onto the landing where they bent him over a railing and ultimately arrested him for resisting and obstructing.

At the Preliminary Hearing the judge dismissed the charge finding that deputies had no reasonable suspicion to detain Heikkola. Dismissals are rare. How could a group of deputies’ algorithms be so off in interpreting their observations of Mr. Heikkola in front of the Kuna sub-station in broad daylight? What is it in the training or culture that caused observations to be processed and responded to so wrongly?

Another issue yet to be resolved and mentioned in the lawsuit is whether or not Heikkola was advised of his rights before being questioned following his arrest and subsequent movement to an interview room. If it is determined a deputy lied in a report about admonishing Heikkola of his rights it would become a “Brady” issue and the deputy would no longer be able to serve in law enforcement.

The public trust is fragile and precious. Every contact by deputies either builds or erodes that trust. In the Star case deputies underreacted to their observations. In the Kuna case they overreacted to their observations.

We must do better Ada County.

Vote Traubel for Sheriff November 5, 2024.

This Op-Ed was submitted by Doug Traubel. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.

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Tags: 1614, Ada County, Ada County Courthouse, Chief Deputy Scott Johnson, Committeewoman, Constitution, Doug Traubel, Gary Raney, Jackie Davidson, Jan Bennetts, Jeremy Banach, Judge Manweiler, Kendra Kenyon Greg Bower, Matt Clifford, Mick Heikkola, Oath of Office, public trust, Republican Precinct, Rod Beck, Sheriff, Skip Banach, Star deputies, Star Police, Steve Bartlett, Vaughn Killeen

3 thoughts on “Op-Ed: I Am the Change

  1. Sharp. Compassionate. Constitutional. Experienced. Oath Centered. Integrity. Ethical.

    Ada County and the Treasure Valley deserve a better Sheriff! Vote Traubel for Sheriff November 5, 2024.

  2. Another question: Is your sheriff in this land a true constitutional sheriff ? Over the years instead of being a independent law enforcement and protection of the people. Some sheriffs have become law enforcement for the political agenda . Their offices and personal have become puppets for local judges, council people, state staff and city management. Sheriffs ARE the law of the land. Not state police, or local police. A few years back I contacted the states sheriff association. Asked them are they CSPOA members ( Constitutional sheriffs peace officers association) the answer was no. I asked if they were constitutional sheriffs? No answer. made me think that some sheriffs offices has been compromised . So we ALL need to ask our selves will our sheriff stand for the people ? or the political agenda.

  3. It’s the true Republicans (approx 10% imo) vs the “rinos” (which are democrat infiltrators/ traitors/ the compromised and blackmailed) and the democrats (which hate the country or are to stupid to see where their policies lead and mostly traitors and corrupt themselves/ very irrational). The rule of law vs mob rule. The decent law abiding citizens vs the thugs. The honest vs the deceiver “secret society members – masons (hidden agendas). We either follow the laws on the books as written, or we make them up as we go.

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