Chip Roos was Bonner County’s first sheriff in 20 years to serve two consecutive terms. Now he’s going after an unprecedented third.
“This is what I have chosen as a career and spent my adult life training for. I am very well-qualified to do it,” said Roos, 47, announcing his re-election bid Monday.
“And after you cut through the smoke, mirrors and mud (from my opponent) and look at what’s real, we’ve produced quite a product here.” Roos, a Republican, has 19 years experience in law enforcement and holds the state’s highest certification available for sheriffs.
He touted some of his accomplishments Monday, including opening a juvenile detention center, starting a canine unit, a DARE program for students and a junior law enforcement and search and rescue program.
“As sheriff, my staff and I have accomplished many projects to control costs and better serve the people of this county,” Roos said.
Attorney Mark Jones, also a Republican, announced months ago he will oppose Roos during the May primary for the $35,000 a year job.
Jones spent 11 years in law enforcement, mainly as a patrol deputy, before becoming an attorney.
He has roundly criticized Roos and the sheriff’s department, saying the office is poorly run, top heavy with administrators and regularly clashes with the county prosecutor over cases.
Jones claims he can put four additional officers on patrol the day he takes office, and save taxpayer money by using retired officers as volunteers to teach DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
Roos doubts either is possible. DARE, a national program, requires those who teach the course be full-time employees and certified law enforcement officers.
Volunteers and retired law officers would not qualify as Jones has suggested, Roos said.
The sheriff’s department currently has 18 road deputies, including one who doubles as a sergeant to oversee the officers.
The sheriff and undersheriff are the only ones who don’t regularly patrol the roads, but still respond to major calls and write an occasional ticket.
“Within the last week I bagged a speeder and someone driving on a closed road,” Roos said. “We do our share on top of overseeing the jail, marine division, dispatch, detectives, juvenile detention and civil and clerical offices.”
Still, Roos hopes to add more deputies. The county applied for a $140,000 federal grant to put two to four more officers on the road.
Roos doesn’t deny his office has conflicts with Prosecutor Tevis Hull. The most recent came last week when Hull dropped charges against a man accused of shooting at a deputy. The prosecutor blamed deputies for the gunfight, saying they didn’t properly identify themselves.
“I know there are some things we can improve on, but at the same time I find what’s going on discouraging,” Roos said.
In the past, the Sheriff’s Department had more than a 90 percent conviction rate for major crimes. That dropped to about 50 percent since Hull took office four years ago, the sheriff said.
“It’s unlikely my people became incompetent overnight,” he said.
Jones has blamed the Sheriff’s Department for letting some cases go unsolved and has attacked Roos’ professionalism.
Recently, Jones filed a complaint against the county and Roos for allegedly giving out confidential information about the mental condition of one of his clients.
Roos said he plans to avoid the “mudslinging” and stick to the issues. One of his main goals is to get a new jail built to replace the antiquated jail, which holds only 15 inmates.
“Anyone running for sheriff has got to agree the current jail situation is desperate,” he said.
A nearly $4 million jail levy may be put to voters during the May primary.
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