Wheeler touches base in Ponderay

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PONDERAY — Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler made an appearance at Ponderay's City Council meeting Monday to "touch base" with council members, the mayor and city staff.

Wheeler announced the date for this year's Peace Officer Memorial, which will be held at 5:30 p.m., May 15 at the sheriff's office.

"This has been a very, very dangerous year for police officers," Wheeler said. "... Just last month, two of our officers were shot and hospitalized."

He said there has been an increase in officer-involved shootings and deaths. The purpose of the memorial is to come together as a community and recognize the officers who have lost their lives in Idaho and across the country, Wheeler added.

Wheeler also presented council members with a letter signed by Ponderay Police Chief Jimmy Cornelius, Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon and Priest River Police Chief Drew McLain. The letter outlined Wheeler's thoughts on a metropolitan police model, which has, over the years, been brought forward to him for endorsement from time to time. As he read the letter to council, Wheeler said his answer has always been the same — no.

"The metropolitan police model would put an end to all the local jurisdictions," Wheeler read from his letter. "Instead, the county would have centralized services under one roof."

He said the model is gaining ground across the country, such as the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. He said it has been sold as a way to save money, but his objection is to how Bonner County residents would be represented when, currently, operations run smoothly between jurisdictions. He said the county and local jurisdictions work together, especially in times of crisis. When the two deputies were shot in Blanchard, he said, neighboring law enforcement agencies dropped all their differences to come out and help.

"This was a stellar example of the respect and professionalism that exists in our county and each jurisdiction has its own autonomy and unique ways of operations, and I would like to continue to respect our differences and unite resources when the need arises," Wheeler read.

Even before bringing up the topic of the metropolitan police model, Wheeler addressed relationship between BCSO and the Ponderay Police Department.

"We have a great partnership with the chief of police, Jimmy Cornelius," Wheeler said.

The Ponderay Police is a small department, and whenever the officers need assistance, Wheeler assured Cornelius he could count on BSCO to help out, and vice versa.

Finally, Wheeler reiterated to council, who recently heard a presentation by volunteers, about the BCSO community watch program.

"It's been a very successful program," he said.

Wheeler said his hope is that crooks in neighboring counties and states won't want to come to Bonner County because suspicious activity will be reported by those in the program. He said the police have a good partnership with the local community in that when the public sees suspicious activity, they report it and officers investigate.

"We would rather have people call on things that turn out to be nothing than not call all," Wheeler said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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