IDAHO — "Being a member of the Ada County Sheriffs' office is a privilege and we don't take that job lightly," said Ada County Sheriff, Steve Bartlett as he opened the discussion.
As a result of recent events and questions raised by the public about local law enforcement Bartlett sat down and addressed concerns about his agency, how they work and their duty in society.
For him, it starts with hiring the right people. He said that he sits down with each candidate and gets to know them personally.
Once hired, no matter your role within the agency every employee goes through extensive training.
“Last year's budget we have invested over $500,000 into our employees to ensure they are receiving the highest level and the proper training,” said Bartlett.
The training includes topics of racism and proper de-escalation tactics, which focuses a lot on simply listening to the needs of the person they are dealing with.
“Those classes ensure that when we show up on a call we have set aside our personal biases and personal beliefs and we are just there to take care of the public,” said Bartlett.
But with all the talk about defunding the police, Bartlett said that it comes down to if the people can trust them to do their job.
“My personal opinion is not that citizens want to cut the budgets, but that they want accountability,” said Barlett. "Can they trust the agencies that are there to serve and protect them to do their job correctly? That's what it comes down to."
He said that his department is held accountable through critical performance reviews, documented reports and direct feedback from citizens. He wants the public to know that if you see something happening that isn't right, to call, email, or come in because citizen review is something they take seriously.
He's also open to having a conversation about having other social service workers help deputies with mental health calls.
“Many of the jobs that fall on the shoulders and the backs of our deputies fall there because there are no other people to respond to those crises and emergencies," said Bartlett. "We are happy to be that person but we also strongly agree that we would open a conversation to figure out better solutions.”
His agency is also strongly against the use of excessive force and that shows in their numbers.
“In patrol, our use of force number is 0.12 percent of all of our calls for service result in a use of force,” said Bartlett
Their use of force numbers in the Ada County jail is even lower.
"Our use of force with all of our contacts and calls for service in the jail is 0.03 percent," said Bartlett.
He said there is no place for racism or unlawful behavior within his agency.
“This means that no matter what race, gender, what religious organization you belong to when you call 911 or our non-emergency line and you ask for our assistance that each one of our staff members would treat you the same way no matter who you are,” said Bartlett.
You can watch the full town hall discussion through this link.
The Ada County Sheriff's Office also said that this will not be the last of town hall discussions, and encourages the public to reach out with any questions or concerns.