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VIDEO: Sheriff talks public safety at town hall

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | August 26, 2022 1:08 AM

HAYDEN — From the possible threat of school shootings to the fentanyl flooding North Idaho, Kootenai County residents shared their concerns about community safety with local law enforcement.

Around 200 people gathered Thursday night at the Office of Emergency Management for a town hall meeting with Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris.

Tensions flared after Norris addressed a GOP rally he attended in April, where the speakers included David Reilly, a Pennsylvania transplant condemned by multiple pro-Israel organizations for his antisemitic writings.

Norris came under scrutiny after video of him speaking at the rally circulated online. He told The Press in June that he does not share Reilly’s “extremist” views.

He said Thursday that he believes national media mischaracterized his attendance.

“I am not a white nationalist,” he said. “I do not support the speech that was used that evening.”

Norris added that he also does not support “scantily-clad people performing a sexual dance in front of children,” referring to a June 11 drag show at a Pride celebration in City Park.

Coeur d’Alene police investigated the show after a doctored video of one performance circulated widely on social media. The edited footage made it appear as though the dancer’s genitals were exposed.

City prosecutors later confirmed that no indecent exposure occurred.

Norris refused to answer questions about his statement. He asked a woman to leave who spoke in defense of the drag performer, while the crowd chanted for her to be removed from the building.

Lt. Zachary Sifford emphasized that when facing an active shooter, law enforcement’s priority is to “stop the killing to stop the dying.”

Officers with KCSO are trained to immediately act to stop a shooter, he said, even if that means approaching gunfire alone and ignoring the injured until the threat is neutralized.

“We will step past anyone, including our own, to stop whoever is hurting our children,” he said.

The impact of illegal drugs on local communities was another hot topic.

“Fentanyl is running rampant,” said Lt. Mark Ellis.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

At least 24 people in Kootenai County have died due to fentanyl overdoses in the last two years. Among them was a 15-year-old Lake City High School student, who died after taking a counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl.

Ellis said Kootenai County’s rapid growth has made it an attractive location for illicit drug sales.

“Drugs do correlate to a lot of the crime we have right now,” he said.

He suggested that a 2021 Washington state Supreme Court ruling that “simple drug possession” is not an arrestable offense has increased drug-related crimes on the Idaho side of the border.

Ellis said local police will continue to enforce Idaho’s drug laws.

“We have no tolerance for illegal drugs in the state of Idaho,” he said.

Video

Kootenai County Sheriff Robert Norris holds town hall meeting addressing several issues

Norris touched on a variety of topics, including how his office trains to respond to active shooter situations and the media's coverage of the Patriot Front arrest.

Norris touched on a variety of topics, including how his office trains to respond to active shooter situations and the media's coverage of the Patriot Front arrest.