Allow me to bring some much-needed clarity to the blurred charges that Sheriff Dean Wilson is stepping beyond his authority and engaging in "political" activities.
In his Jan. 12 letter to the editor, "Wilson should make up his mind: be sheriff or politician," Richard Wendt called for Sheriff Wilson to "be a politician or the Del Norte County sheriff!" Apparently Mr. Wendt played hooky during his high school civics class. The California Constitution calls for each county to have an elected sheriff, and by definition any elected government official is a "politician."
Mr. Wendt admonishes Sheriff Wilson that he "should spend more time being the sheriff than promoting (in uniform or not) your political beliefs." To the contrary, as chairman of the California State Sheriff's Association's Finance Committee, Sheriff Wilson is directed to work "on issues of statewide concern and interest." The 700 people who assembled in Yreka gathered for a panel discussion of county sheriffs addressing such issues.
I can accept a member of the public being less than informed on an
issue, but I find it difficult to understand why a newspaper editorial
("Sheriff's politics intriguing, confusing," Jan. 14) also veers away
from the facts.
Sheriff Wilson is said to be "openly staking out partisan political
positions, on the job," and of speaking at "what was clearly a
politically partisan rally in Yreka." If Sheriff Wilson is guilty of
this, so are the sheriffs of Siskiyou, Trinity, Tehama, Shasta, Lassen,
Plumas and Modoc counties, all panel participates.
"We're not sitting up here just as individual sheriffs, we're sitting
up here as a united group," stressed Trinity County Sheriff Bruce
At no time during the panel discussion was any political party or
agenda mentioned. The only injection of partisan politics has been the
Triplicate's reference to "Republicans and Democrats" in its editorial.
The statement that "some of [Wilson's] stands seem to have little to
do with law enforcement" is also in error. Issues of statewide concern
and interest discussed by the sheriffs at the forum included protection
of personal, property, water, forest, mineral and recreational rights.
These are all valid law enforcement concerns as are numerous
CSSAandndash;targeted legislative topics highlighted on its website, including
elder and animal abuse, treatment of the homeless, sex offender social
networking, ski resort safety, juvenile sexting, tribal gaming and
victims' rights, ad infinitum.
The editorial continues to misstate the facts when it claims that
"Wilson is implying that his duty as sheriff is to pursue political
change andhellip;" The truth is exactly the opposite. Sheriff Wilson's oath of
office includes the promise to defend the Constitution, which is a
document designed specifically to severely limit political change. All
seven sheriffs (plus two more unable to attend) are adamant in their
pledge to defend the citizens of small Northern California counties
against the crushing regulatory onslaught of both state and federal
government bureaucracy. Those in support of Big Government locking up
the people's resources are those in pursuit of "political change."
Although Sheriff Wilson paid his own expenses he is reproached for
"wearing his Del Norte County uniform" at the meeting. Sheriff Wilson
was invited to join the forum as a sheriff to join together with other
sheriffs to discuss job-related topics. Wearing his uniform was
certainly appropriate and he was not alone in doing so.
The editorial swipe ends with asking, "Better to be in the office or
on the stump?" This adage is a reference to an active candidate for
elective office on the campaign trail seeking votes among his
constituents. By no stretch of the imagination should it be slung at an
elected law enforcement officer while participating in an out-of-town
forum of his fellow sheriffs during mid-term.
A sheriff's authority reaches beyond the confines of his county,
extending throughout the state of California. Similarly, his
responsibilities to meet, plan and cooperate with his contemporaries do
not end at the county line. The County of Del Norte official job
description for sheriff includes as an "essential duty" that he "Attends
out-of-town law enforcement meetings and conferences to represent the
County and improve the County's law enforcement capability."
The sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the country
with greater authority than city, state or federal officers. His job is
to protect the people of his county and his state from any threat to
their safety and well being. His job is not to just arrest, gather
information, testify and imprison wrongdoers. His job is to protect us
from the ongoing, bureaucratic, job-strangling theft of our rights to
fish, hunt, log, mine, farm and recreate. Would the Triplicate have him
to do anything less?
Aaron Funk of Klamath owns Kamp Klamath RV Park and FunBus Tours.