HAYDEN — From the potential threat of school shootings to the fentanyl floods in northern Idaho, residents of Kootenai County have shared their concerns about community safety with local law enforcement.
About 200 people gathered Thursday night at the Office of Emergency Management for a town hall meeting with Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris.
Tensions flared after Norris addressed the issue a GOP rally he attended in Aprilwhere speakers included David Reilly, a Pennsylvania transplant recipient who has been condemned by several pro-Israel organizations for his anti-Semitic writings.
Norris came under scrutiny after a video of him speaking at the rally circulated online. He told The Press in June that he didn’t share Reilly’s “extremist” views.
He said Thursday he believes the national media mischaracterized his participation.
“I’m not a white nationalist,” he said. “I do not endorse the speech used that evening.”
Norris added that he also doesn’t support “barely clad people performing a sexual dance in front of children,” referring to a June 11 drag show at a Pride celebration in City Park.
Coeur d’Alene Police investigated the show after a manipulated video of a performance was widely circulated on social media. The edited footage appeared to reveal the dancer’s genitals.
City prosecutors later confirmed that no indecent disclosure took place.
Norris refused to answer questions about his statement. He asked a woman to leave, who spoke out in defense of the drag performer, while the crowd chanted for her to be removed from the building.
Lt. Zachary Sifford stressed that when confronting an active shooter, law enforcement’s priority is to “stop the killing to stop the dying.”
Officers with KCSO are trained to act immediately to stop a gunman, he said, even if that means only closing in on gunfire and ignoring the injured until the threat is neutralized.
“We will step past everyone, including our own, to stop whoever is hurting our children,” he said.
The impact of illicit drugs on local communities was another hot topic.
“Fentanyl is widely used,” said Lt. Mark Ellis.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
At least 24 people in Kootenai County have died from a fentanyl overdose in the past two years. Among them was a 15-year-old Lake City High School student who died after taking a fake pill laced with fentanyl.
Ellis said Kootenai County’s rapid growth has made it an attractive place to sell illegal drugs.
“Drugs correlate to a lot of the crime that we have right now,” he said.
He suggested that a 2021 Washington State Supreme Court ruling that ruled that “simple drug possession” was not a detectable felony had increased drug-related crimes on the Idaho side of the border.
Ellis said local police will continue to enforce Idaho’s drug laws.
“We do not tolerate illegal drugs in the state of Idaho,” he said.