Sheriff candidates touch on gun control, drugs, SROs | NevadaAppeal.com

Sheriff candidates touch on gun control, drugs, SROs

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Five candidates vying to replace Ben Trotter as sheriff answered questions at Tuesday's Candidates Night on how they would deal with specific situations and enforce the law in Churchill County.

Candidates seeking the sheriff's position are Walter "Butch" Christie, Ray East, Richard Hickox, Jared Jones and John Moser.

(More detailed background information may be found in a previous LVN article and in this week's voters' guide).

Candidates answered questions for almost 45 minutes, and responses varied in length among the five. Jeff Goings began the question-and-answer segment by asking them if gun laws are too strict or adequate, or if they need to be more stringent.

East said he's not an advocate of gun control and believes law-abiding citizens have the right to protect themselves and their property with their own firearms.

Jones said people may have guns as long as they're legally allowed by law.

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Moser said he believes in the Second Amendment in the way it's written. He said he doesn't believe separate laws should be written for automatic weapons. Moser said citizens have the right to own firearms, and as for the "bad guys" having firearms, he said that is a law enforcement problem.

Hickox said laws are adequate to do the job. He said lawmakers don't need to add anything and feels if a person wants to own a firearm and it's legal, he should be able to have one.

Christie said he has been a member of the National Rifle Association for 41 years and thinks the current laws don't go far enough in protecting constitutional rights, which he said are under attack by gun control advocates.

Jim Falk asked candidates about the standoff at the Bundy Ranch northeast of Las Vegas four years ago when federal agents tried to remove cattle from grazing land.

Jones said he would meet with the district attorney and find the best avenue to handle a similar incident. Jones said he would talk to the governor and deal with the situation at the state level.

Moser said the feds, as far as he is concerned, wouldn't step foot in Churchill County. As the top law enforcement officer in the county, Moser said he would meet with the federal agencies and then he, as sheriff, would meet with the person in question, not the U.S. government.

Hickox said he felt the Clark County sheriff didn't do his job well in handling the situation and reacted too slowly.

Christie said it goes back to constitutional rights. Because the federal government owns about 87 percent of the state, Christie said the county sheriff has no jurisdiction over federal land. He said until constitutional values are defined, he said local law enforcement will have troubles.

East said the situation at the Bundy ranch was a civil issue and felt the Bureau of Land Management didn't have the right or authority to trespass and seize property. East said the federal agencies and personnel will act in accordance with the power of the sheriff.

Becky Dodd asked candidates which is worse, methamphetamine or opioids in the county?

Hickox said medical examiners consider overdoses from meth in Northern Nevada considerably higher. He said he would like to re-implement a task force with other partners and use the team approach to face the drug use and also see a student resource officer in the schools to curb narcotics.

Christie said he would like to see a drug task force because he doesn't feel the sheriff is doing enough to protect the county's children.

East considers meth a larger problem and would promote some services and would like to see a jurisdictional approach.

Jones said meth outweighs opioid use and he knows first-hand when he was a member of the task force earlier in his career. He would also like to involve the Nevada Highway Patrol because of the drug use along Interstate 80 that goes through Churchill County.

Moser said opioid use "is right up there with meth." He said both are problems. Moser said he would like to a task force and have deputies he knows and who have the expertise in the drug field to focus and attack the problem. Furthermore, Moser said there must be follow-up after arresting the abuser by going after the distributor.

For the second half of the question and answer period, candidates were in general agreement. Candidates were asked how they and their department would treat people with whom they come in contact. One questioner asked candidates if they would look for the truth.

Jones and Hickox said they would ensure everyone is treated fairly, and they would constantly seek the truth. On the other hand, Christie said no one is treated equally, saying "we can't get law enforcement to protect any rights."

Moser said he would like to implement a chain of command that incorporates a training office to review a crime report, and East, who said he has been a victim of being mistreated, said he would be fair with due process and the right to protect residents.

All candidates said they would like to keep and expand the volunteer reserve program. Hickox said online instruction is being used to streamline the learning, and Moser said he would find a way to get the reserve volunteers compensated. East said he would like to see an Explorers program.

Linda Thompson said she has a concern with school safety and wondered if any of the candidates would put a deputy in each of the high and middle schools along with a city police officer and then a deputy in each of the elementary schools.

The candidates said money is the biggest restraint and having 10 deputies or officers tied up in the schools would lessen the number of personnel on the street. Moser and Christie said they would like to see a deputy walk through a school at least once a day.

Hickox, though, said the CCSO must work with Fallon Police since all schools are within city limits. Most candidates said bringing back a student resource officer would be worth exploring. Churchill County School District and the police department teamed up on a grant more than 15 years ago to have an SRO, but budget problems during the recession eliminated the position. It has never returned.

The candidates said the CCSO and county must enforce current laws dealing with the control of pets. Moser said there must be more follow up after reports are filed, and Jones agreed, saying it's good to follow up with the pet's owner.

Candidates responded to a question to allow teachers to be part of active-shooter training. Hickox said the training is open to teachers who want to learn and observe. Both Jones and Moser agreed educators should be invited to participate in such activities. East said he would also like to involve more agencies within Churchill County.

Candidates replied to a question on how they would build or add special groups or teams and then find the money for them.

Moser said grants are available, and funding is allocated to deputies for training. He said he would like to form a technical emergency mission specialist, for example, and the process could take 18 months.

Hickox said he doesn't plan to begin extra teams, while East said specialized teams need to be community based.

Jones said the CCSO should have fair, equal training, and deputies should be able to attend work-related training.