Yes, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue has room for improvement.
He would be wise to tone down some of the public sparring with county commissioners and others he disagrees with, and reroute his leadership skills toward consensus building.
It is OK to be critical, for instance, of a plan to expand the Canyon County Jail, but he should recognize that is just one of the issues facing his department. It makes no sense to burn political bridges. He should more often take the long view.
That said, Donahue deserves to become the Republican nominee for sheriff and advance to the November general election. No one else in the field is ready to step in and do what Donahue does well: keep the peace in Canyon County within an atmosphere of very challenging financial and manpower realities.
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Challengers Albert Erickson, the Parma police chief, and Tony Thompson, who has a law enforcement background at the Caldwell police department and now serves as an investigator in the Canyon County prosecutor’s office, simply don’t have sheriff’s department experience — especially running a jail, which is a huge part of the job.
Of those two, we see a lot of promise for Thompson, who has an upbeat, outside-the-box approach to problem solving. If we were in Donahue’s boots, we’d regularly reach out to Thompson and listen to his ideas about engaging citizens to volunteer in the department and sharing the expense of big equipment purchases with other nearby law enforcement agencies.
It should be noted that Donahue faces an investigation for allegedly misusing county resources in his efforts to support his Man Up Crusade charity, which has a mission to reduce domestic violence in our society.
He’s also been criticized for being absent from the office and being too involved with too many community-based nonprofit groups. To that, we say baloney. A law enforcement executive ought to be part of community efforts — especially those that can have a positive impact on our youth and enhance relations between law enforcement and the public.
Donahue has a firm grasp on what ails his department: an overcrowded and outdated jail, and heavy turnover. He needs to be more of a leader in the jail matter, but there is little he can do to prevent his best and most qualified people from leaving because they can get paid more at another law enforcement agency.
Turnover is an ongoing issue everywhere in law enforcement. Donahue is working on it, reaching out to area education institutions and doing his best to win the most compensation for his staff. But there is a fine line between evolving and enacting changes to bolster recruitment and retention if it means lowering standards. We know Donahue is unwilling to do that, and we fully agree.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@ idahostatesman.com.
Idaho Statesman endorsements
The Editorial Board endorsements for Tuesday’s primary:
▪ West Ada School District Board of Trustees: Against recall of Tina Dean and Carol Sayles.
▪ Idaho Supreme Court: Clive Strong.
▪ District 2 Ada County Board of Commissioners: Democrat TJ Thomson, Republican Teri Murrison.
▪ District 3 Ada County Board of Commissioners: Republican Dave Case.