Wheeler advocates for county drug policy change, closing southern border
Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler advocated Wednesday that county drug possession charges be re-categorized as infractions, as opposed to misdemeanors, so those facing charges cannot qualify for a public defender. Wheeler suggested those facing infraction charges should be charged heavy fines.
(Photo by ANNISA KEITH)
Staff Writer | January 13, 2022 1:00 AM
SANDPOINT — Drug smuggling at the U.S.-Mexico border poses a danger to Bonner County, Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler told Sandpoint Rotary Club members Wednesday.
Wheeler also proposed a policy change that would affect those who take part in the county’s drug courts.
“There’s death, destruction, there’s a lot of things happening that affects people who are coming here, innocent people who are trying to get a better life for themselves,” Wheeler said.
During the half-hour presentation, Wheeler shared information about how drugs find their way to Bonner County after crossing through the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We have cartel activity that has been identified in Spokane. The cartel is operating just across the border and it comes into Bonner County. It’s a problem that affects us. More than 95% of all illegal narcotics in the United States comes through the southern border in Mexico, it’s all coming through there,” Wheeler said. “All of those drugs affect Idaho.”
Three Rotarians asked Wheeler during the meeting what people can do to help prevent drug-related crime in Bonner County. Each time, Wheeler said the best solution is to close the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Well I can tell you that Congress is trying to close down the border,” Wheeler said, “I’m not going to get political but I –”
“Yeah, I think we should get political,” a Rotarian said, cutting Wheeler off.
“I don’t want to offend anybody, but, this administration has given a blind eye to what’s going on and they don’t want to do any kind of enforcement to give support to the border patrols and police that are working out there. We need to close this down,” Wheeler said.
“I’ve been decrying this for the last 10 years when people ask, ‘How are we going to solve the drug problem?’ I always bring up the fact that the drugs are not coming from California, Oregon and Washington. The drugs are coming through the southern border. We have to close that border down to stop the flow of illegal drugs.”
“From our perspective at the Sheriff’s Office we are continually stopping people, making traffic stops, arresting people, but it’s an unstoppable flow of drugs that are coming in here. Until the main source of the supply is stopped at the border, we are going to continue to do this.”
“How many of those people are terrorists? How many of those people want to do harm to our country? This is a public safety issue and we need to close that border down. We need to stop the flow of drugs. We need to stop the people that are coming into our country. They’re seeking a better life, I understand that. But our life itself, our safety, should come before that. It’s inconceivable how many people are coming across. If they’re here because of political persecution they should come over here and be safe. But, to just let people in? — It’s devastating to the moral fiber of our communities,” he said.
Wheeler said that the legalization of marijuana in surrounding states is leading to increased drug-related crime in the county. He then proposed a policy change that would affect those seeing drug-related charges.
“I’ve advocated to the [Idaho] Sheriff’s Association and to the Legislature that just straight drug possessions should be classified as an infraction,” Wheeler said. “If someone comes from Washington with marijuana, it’s illegal here, make it a $1,000 fine. Then they can’t access the court system, because it’s an infraction, and they don’t get free legal. And then they’re going to say, ‘Gosh, you know what, I think I’ll keep my drugs in another state.’”
At the end of the presentation in response to a question, Wheeler said his claims are not politically motivated and that he intends to seek one more term as sheriff before retiring.
More information about the Sheriff’s Office can be found on their website at bonnerso.org or by visiting their Facebook page, Bonner County Sheriff’s Office.