The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office has declined a request from the Ketchum City Council to meet with it and the public during an open meeting to discuss policing tactics and enforcement measures.
Councilwoman Amanda Breen brought up the prospect of reaching out to the Sheriff’s Office during a council meeting on June 15, following a nationwide outcry over police brutality—and subsequent scrutiny of law enforcement tactics—in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white officer in Minneapolis.
“We don’t talk very much about police in the council and I think this is the time to do so,” Breen said during the meeting.
Ultimately, Mayor Neil Bradshaw and the rest of the council agreed it would be a good opportunity to invite the Sheriff’s Office, which has a Ketchum division that makes up the Ketchum Police Department.
However, on Monday, Breen explained to the council why the agenda item of “Discussion regarding policing protocols” had been indefinitely tabled.
According to Breen, Sheriff Steve Harkins declined the mayor’s request to come to the council meeting.
“I was a little disappointed in that,” Breen said. Instead, Harkins offered to set up a private meeting between himself, Breen and another council member, Breen said.
Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton asked to join Breen for the meeting, but as of Tuesday no meeting had been scheduled, Breen told the Mountain Express.
Hamilton echoed the disappointment with the Sheriff’s Office.
“I was a little disheartened that they didn’t want to come because I think it’s an important public discussion given how many members of the public are talking about policing right now,” she said during the meeting Monday. “And I think it’s something that needs to be transparent in our community.”
For now, it won’t be—at least not to anyone who will not be invited into the private meeting, including any members of the press. According to Breen, the press is part of the reason the sheriff declined to speak at a public meeting, after a reporter with the Mountain Express requested to be invited to the private meeting.
“I can assure you that the sheriff won’t meet with me if I tell him the press is coming along,” Breen said in an email to the Mountain Express in response to the request. “They made that quite clear when they declined the invitation to meet publicly at a council meeting.”
Harkins was elected sheriff in November 2016 and was sworn in on Jan. 9, 2017. During this year’s primary elections, Harkins ran unopposed on the Democratic ticket for November’s election and no one ran against him on the GOP ballot.
In a 2017, interview, shortly before he was sworn in as sheriff, Harkins told the Mountain Express that during his tenure he wanted to strive for an open relationship with the public.
“I work for the citizens of Blaine County, and building trust and transparency will always be a priority for me,” Harkins said at the time.
Neither Harkins nor Sheriff’s Office Administrative Specialist Holly Carter, who normally responds to media requests, responded to a request for comment by press deadline Thursday.