Statesman Editorial: Raney’s departure is a big loss for Ada County, major gain for feds

The Treasure Valley has been blessed with excellent law enforcement leadership in recent history. The positions of Boise police chief and Ada Country sheriff are among those that immediately come to mind.

Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson retired in January; on June 30, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney will be leaving his post to accept a consulting position with the Diagnostic Center of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Though some might fret about a void or vacuum when such effective leaders move on, they forget that preparing their departments to function without them is the truest sign of leadership success. A pretty seamless transition is underway in Boise, and knowing Raney, his team is adequately trained and poised to carry on the same level of professionalism and integrity that he has exhibited his entire career.

Whether it’s been managing 650 employees and a $60 million budget or practicing his detective skills by helping to crack high-profile cases, Raney has been a consistent top-tier sheriff in a world where pitfalls have claimed many of his contemporaries.

Raney’s hand-picked successor to fill out his term is Capt. Stephen Bartlett, 44, a 12-year veteran of the department who has served as chief of police in Eagle under the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office. If the Republican Party bosses who will nominate a slate of sheriff successors for the Ada County commissioners to consider know what’s good for them, they’ll heavily weigh Raney’s endorsement.

Whoever is chosen to succeed Raney will be following a man with a sterling reputation, a man better known for his community involvement and dedication than for his political agenda since joining the department in 1983 and then being elected sheriff in 2005.

Though Raney knows how to maneuver politically, he’s always been more interested in doing what is best for Ada County and Idaho than appeasing politicos. That is how he gained such a fantastic reputation for his management approach, his award-winning jail operation and his numerous invitations to speak before his law enforcement peers around the country.

It is not a fluke that the feds want him to assess and advise other law enforcement agencies about best practices.

What often separates a sheriff from other law enforcement agencies is the responsibility of a jail and all of the challenges that entails. We commend and appreciate Raney’s approach. Getting people to do things “by force is the easy button,” he says. “It’s all about dignity, compassion and respect.”

Whether dealing with inmates who are awaiting trial or serving sentences, Raney looks at the jail setting as an opportunity to help transform.

Raney’s work in the community has been above and beyond the job description. He has served on numerous boards, including as chair of United Way and for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He has advocated for early-education initiatives because he knows the majority of people who end up in the corrections system do not have that advantage.

As for criminal justice and sentencing, Raney has been at the forefront of working for reforms. He leaves office believing that “one-third of Ada County inmates could be released.”

Raney, 52, a farm kid from Caldwell, knew when he saw some high school classmates in their police Explorer uniforms that he wanted a career in law enforcement. He’s been just as insightful about knowing when to get out.

“It’s been a most wonderful career,” he told the Statesman Editorial Board this week. “I’ve just always enjoyed helping people at the very time when they need the help most.”

Ada County’s loss is the DOJ’s gain for now. Though Raney will keep living in Idaho and he can’t imagine running for any other elective office, we can imagine it.

People with community passion, nonpartisan integrity and compassion are hard to come by. We could use more people like Raney in the Statehouse.

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.