Sheriff Doug McFall has overseen every detail of the new county jail. And we mean every detail. Late last month, he was working with contractors to move a couple of light switches he thought could have been better placed.
McFall brings that attention to detail to his police work, too. He’s earned another term as sheriff.
The jail, of course, is the crowning achievement of his current term. It’s so well planned, he said, the American Civil Liberties Union has a standing invitation to tour the facility. The new hoosegow has erased the overcrowding problems that were putting the county at risk of lawsuits, he said.
His challenger, Jon Lenker, also supports the new jail. A Navy veteran with law enforcement experience in Florida and Idaho, Lenker says he’s running because the community asked him to.
But he simply can’t present enough reasons to oust McFall from office. His major criticism is that McFall’s office is run like the Idaho State Police and is too rigid and hierarchical for a small county sheriff’s department. He also says McFall is too focused on administrative tasks and not out in the field frequently enough.
We disagree. In fact, McFall is almost always the point of contact for the media when crime happens in Jerome County, and he’s usually answering reporters’ questions from the scene.
When it comes to fighting crime, McFall says drugs and alcohol – particularly alcohol – contribute to most of the crime in the county. Recidivism – when a criminal is released only to commit more crimes – is a serious problem in the county, he said.
“Seventy-five percent of the inmates are on a first-name basis with the deputies,” he said.
To stem that tide, McFall supports work-release and monitoring programs that will allow inmates to access support systems rather than sitting in jail.
He touts his close relationships with other law enforcement agencies that help his department collaborate with other agencies on larger investigations.
McFall hopes to work with federal agencies to house their inmates under contract with the new jail, which could drive revenue for the county. If it’s enough, he’d like to hire at least four more deputies to patrol the county.
Lenker also wants more deputies as the county grows but says a restructure within the department could serve the current needs of the county.
We have no doubt Lenker could be a good sheriff. But he hasn’t shown proof he’d do it better than McFall. For that reason alone, McFall deserves another term.