Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Prosecutor, sheriff both did their jobs

| February 5, 2021 1:00 AM

Sometimes justice smells a little like gun oil or pepper spray.

But in two recent semi-controversial instances, justice did indeed prevail.

A Jan. 6 Trump rally on U.S. 95 in Coeur d’Alene took a wrong turn when a man reportedly bumped two ralliers with his car and later, as he tried to leave the scene, displayed a handgun and allegedly threatened others with it.

After reviewing video and other evidence, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh opted to file no charges against the driver, whose name was not released. Some people wanted McHugh to charge the man with a felony for producing a gun when he was approached by two armed men after the bumping incident. McHugh noted that the man was justified in wielding the gun because Idaho law supports actions in self-defense reasonably intended to defend against a perceived threat.

Not only is that a fair ruling, it’s also a good reminder that the Second Amendment applies to all citizens, regardless of who they might support for president.

In the other incident, Sheriff Bob Norris was approached Monday by a citizen armed with a very different kind of weapon: A smart phone with camera. The unidentified citizen was recording a traffic stop in a restaurant parking lot by Kootenai County deputies, a perfectly legal First Amendment exercise. But the citizen then went too far.

The citizen approached the sheriff, throwing an f-bomb at him on the way, and insisted he had a right to record the proceedings. He was mere feet not just from Norris, but from the traffic stop, which was still going on.

The citizen refused to comply when Norris asked him to step back. Norris repeated himself several times; the citizen wanted to argue; and finally, after Norris said, “If you don’t step back, I’m going to take further action,” the sheriff produced what looked like a can of pepper spray. The citizen backed off, quite unhappily, asserting that the sheriff had broken the law and was in big trouble.

What the sheriff did was avoid big trouble. Citizens certainly have a right to record public officials conducting the people’s business, but the man with the camera Monday was putting deputies — and himself — in danger. He injected himself as an active participant in a police matter, rather than staying a safe distance away and legally observing and recording what was taking place.

Not only did Norris show admirable restraint in the incident, but he earned some stripes as the department’s newly elected leader. It’s not every day the sheriff of a fairly large department is out working backup, setting an example for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day. Norris demonstrated that he’s willing to do whatever he asks his employees to do — and that, in our book, is a sign of strong leadership.