Power trips

By Timothy Braatz

According to the website of Dave Schuman, candidate for Boundary County sheriff, he is a “member of Constitutional Peace Officers and Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs.” The “constitutional sheriffs” hold the false notion that the county sheriff, not the U.S. Attorney General, is the ultimate law enforcement authority.

They think a sheriff, not the state or U.S. Supreme Court, should decide if laws are constitutional or not.

In his unsuccessful 2016 campaign, Schuman expressed opposition to receiving federal and state grants. In other words, his ideology comes before the needs of Boundary County taxpayers.

Schuman also boasted, “I was the first to go in on meetings with the commissioners to ensure that we have no refugees coming to this area.” He was referring to 2011, when war refugees were supposedly coming to Boundary County. His lack of empathy for displaced families is startling, as is his misunderstanding of the Constitution. Under U.S. law, only the federal government has authority over who can enter the USA, and a county sheriff cannot prevent individuals from living where they choose.

Do Boundary County voters want a sheriff associated with the unconstitutional “constitutional sheriffs”? Would he bring costly lawsuits, the way “constitutional sheriff” Daryl Wheeler has in Bonner County?

Speaking of costly lawsuits, one of Wheeler’s lieutenants, Jon VanGesen, is also running for Boundary sheriff. VanGesen is a recent arrival, having worked for almost thirty years in the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office near Seattle. He comes with much experience, including SWAT commander, and one big red flag.

In 2018, Seattle resident Omari Taylor claimed that VanGesen violated his constitutional rights. In Taylor’s version, VanGesen pulled him over for being black in a white neighborhood and assumed he was selling drugs. VanGesen claimed that he spotted a cracked taillight (in daylight, with the car coming toward him), then felt threatened and arrested Taylor for “obstructing an officer.” Either way, a social worker taking groceries to a friend’s house ended up in jail.
In 2021, Kitsap County agreed to pay Taylor $200,000 to “avoid the risks of going to trial.” In other words, they believed a jury would likely side with Taylor. Why? According to VanGesen, the county attorneys gave in because “finding an impartial jury…would be difficult” after the entire region “went berserk with Black Lives Matter, antifa, and defund the police.”

In fact, a federal judge found that “a juror could conclude that VanGesen did not see the broken taillight, only stopped Taylor because of his race, and acted in a discriminatory manner.” The judge added that “a reasonable factfinder could find that the line of questioning about why Taylor, a black man, was in a predominantly white area is circumstantial evidence of racial motivation.”

Furthermore, a witness observed VanGesen’s aggressive behavior and called 911 to request other officers constrain him. She told the operator that local police “are usually fantastic, calm, rational folks, and this guy is pissed off.” Her video recording of the arrest suggests an amicable resolution might have been possible—handshakes rather than handcuffs—if a small taillight crack really was the issue.

It seems, at best, VanGesen lost his temper when Taylor, exercising freedom of speech, accused him of racial profiling and declined to answer questions. At worst, VanGesen was engaged in racial profiling (in violation of the 14th Amendment), made a retaliatory arrest (in violation of the 1st and 4th Amendments), and blamed the settlement on hypothetical jury members (in a district with millions of potential jurors, almost none of whom were “berserk”).

Which raises a question: Is SWAT commander VanGesen’s policing style right for Boundary County?

One thought on “Power trips

  1. Unfortunately, Mr Braatz of the Boundary County Human Rights Task Force, is once again showing his distain for law enforcement. I would doubt this man has ever been outside a classroom, much less confront lawbreakers. Mr Braatz never rode a mile in a patrol car, but has no problem playing the race card and second guessing the very people that could save our lives and those of our families. Whom would Mr Braatz have us vote for?

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