News Flash

Sheriff - News

Posted on: July 21, 2022

Press Release – A Message to my Constituents and the Citizens of Blaine County

Sheriff 1

On July 19, 2022, the Blaine County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting to consider whether or not they would accept federal funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).

These federal funds are provided annually to state and local correctional facilities. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office has received these funds since 2001. 

SCAAP is a federal program that awards reimbursement funds to local and state correctional facilities that have housed “undocumented criminal aliens.” This is a term that the federal government uses, and for the purposes of the SCAAP funding, it is defined as an undocumented person in the United States who has been convicted in a court of law of a felony or two or more misdemeanors. 

The Blaine County Board of Commissioners heard from five members of the public who felt that the County should not accept these funds as they felt it promotes “racial profiling” and an “inequitable justice system” in Blaine County.

During this public discussion, the Board engaged in dialogue that may have given the public the impression that they too have doubts or concerns that the members of my office may engage in racial profiling and contribute to what they view as an inequitable justice system. I am appalled that my fellow elected officials would make such misinformed statements. 

The reimbursement payment in the discussion was $14,568 for the fiscal year 2020. We have already submitted FY 2021 and 2022, which I assume will not be accepted by the Board.  Therefore, the taxpayers of Blaine County will lose approximately $45,000 in future SCAAP funding. These funds are not used for immigration purposes but used for “correctional” purposes, such as buying supplies or needs for all inmates.    

The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is a group of 65 men and women who have dedicated their lives to public service and work tirelessly to keep our community safe while demonstrating professionalism, integrity, and honor. The statements made by the Board Chair are an insult to me and every member of the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office. The statements undermine decades of hard work and the trust we have built with the community. I will unequivocally state that my deputies do not profile people based on their race or for any other reason and treat all those they encounter with empathy, dignity, and respect.  

The real issue at hand is that the Blaine County Board of Commissioners and a segment of our community don’t agree with the fact that at my direction, the Blaine County Detention Center cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Board has received pressure from and has been fed a lot of false information from those who feel that Blaine County should be a “Sanctuary County.” The Board has drafted an ordinance that would attempt to alter and limit the duties of the Sheriff by creating a “Sanctuary County.” 

When I was elected Sheriff of Blaine County I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Idaho and the United States and to uphold the Constitution of Idaho of the United States. I also swore to provide a safe community by carrying out my statutorily defined law enforcement duties.

Therefore, I have chosen to cooperate with all of our federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to assist in keeping our community safe. I will not let a group of elected officials dictate with whom I cooperate. By statute, I am required to operate our jail and accept people who have been arrested and charged with crimes. During the booking process, I am required to identify the individual which can be done by a government-issued identification card, any government-issued passport, a previous booking in the Blaine County Detention Center, or by fingerprint identification. We ask the detainee basic questions as to their identity, where they live, where they were born, their date of birth, their occupation, etc. If a person is not able to be identified by these means or if there are any doubts as to their identity, my detention staff will attempt to identify the person by contacting ICE which has the authority to place a hold on the person if they meet ICE’s criteria. ICE will only place a hold if it meets their “priority” criteria. Those who meet these criteria are determined by ICE to be a threat to (1) public safety; (2) border security; and/or (3) national security. More often than not ICE will determine that the person is not a priority for removal and release the hold. 

If an ICE hold is placed on an individual, ICE has the option to take custody of the person before they are released from our custody. If a person can post a bond, has satisfied their sentence, or is otherwise able to be released, ICE must come to take custody of the person before their release. We have been advised by the Idaho Sheriff’s Association legal counsel not to honor a 48-hour ICE detainer. This decision was based on sound legal advice, not political pressure. There are currently many cases before the courts that will dictate what we can and cannot do and we are following these cases closely to remain compliant with the law.

The bottom line is I have chosen to cooperate with ICE for the safety of our community. The fact is some people get arrested, charged, and convicted of very serious crimes. As the Sheriff of Blaine County, I do not feel it is in the best interest of our community to release serious offenders, who happen to be undocumented non-citizens, back into our community. 

I would also like to take the time to explain that the patrol deputies and police officers in Blaine County will not ask people for citizenship documents during traffic stops or when contacted. We have never done this, yet I understand there is fear in the community that people will be asked to prove citizenship or they will be arrested and deported. I have heard stories that someone was arrested for having snow covering their license plate and then deported. This is absolutely false! Part of the problem is that people spread erroneous rumors and anecdotal stories that are not accurate which only perpetuates fear. These false stories also land on the desks of elected officials who haven’t the time to educate themselves or ignore the truth to promote their own political belief systems and biases.

The fact is there are times when people commit unthinkable crimes and they need to be held accountable regardless of their citizenship. That is what the court system is for, and once convicted, the court has the option to send people to jail or prison. If that person happens to unlawfully be in the United States, the federal government may remove them from the county. The Board and some in the community request that I ignore my oath of office and release them back into our community. 

I have no desire to enter into the divisive world of politics that is currently happening in this country. I am not a politician; I am a career law enforcement officer and I base my decisions and set policy on a common-sense approach with public safety at the forefront. I will not make policy decisions based on the latest political whims and I have no appetite to entertain political concepts from the extreme left or the extreme right. I will lead my office with a pragmatic approach based on sound principles of law enforcement, and the laws of the State of Idaho and the United States. I will not yield to the political impulses of a few members of the community.

Lastly, if you are an undocumented person and a victim of a crime or in need of law enforcement, I ask that you call us. My patrol deputies and detectives do not care about your immigration status and I promise you will receive fair and equitable treatment just as anyone else.

A Spanish translation of this letter will be forthcoming shortly. 

Steve Harkins

Blaine County Sheriff


Posted: 4:30 p.m. on July 21, 2022

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CONTACT:    Holly Carter – Blaine County Sheriff’s Office (208) 788-5536

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