By Ron Lee
GRANTS PASS, OR – Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson has been the target of innuendo and rumblings within the community who suspect Gilbertson’s idea to create “shooting districts” within the county as a move to, ultimately, terminate their 2nd amendment rights. Several outspoken individuals and groups have stated to the US~Observer that they are considering a recall of the sheriff. They cite, along with the shooting districts, that he just hasn’t done his job and that property crimes aren’t handled at all. Gilbertson’s critics say that the sheriff no longer patrols and has fallen into the same category as his predecessor, Dave Daniel, who decried the public for not passing more funding for the department. Daniel’s own undersheriff, Brian Anderson, had allegedly even commented, “F*** the public. They get what they pay for.” It was the exposure of this comment that cost Anderson the election when he ran for the post of Sheriff and landed Gilbertson in office. Gilbertson had maintained throughout his campaign that he’d supply the best coverage he could with whatever the public chose to give him. Something his critics say he has forgotten. Gilbertson’s reply is simple and straight-forward. He believes in the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment – which he says he will protect should the Feds think otherwise. He supports an individuals right to achieve a concealed carry permit, and that those citizens have a right to privacy. Gilbertson further states that he is working for the safety of all citizens and just because he is trying to find funding for needed areas of the department it does not mean he isn’t doing the best he can with what has been provided.
Under Oregon Revised Statutes (206.010; General duties of sheriff), the sheriff has to maintain and staff the jail, provide court records (subpoena, warrants) processing and serving, as well as “arrest and commit to prison all persons who break the peace, or attempt to break it, and all persons guilty of public offenses.” The law says nothing about crimes against personal property, however, Gilbertson maintains that he would like to go after all criminals and investigate all crimes, but that he is faced with supplying deputies for the more serious crimes against people. When asked about property crimes Gilbertson said, “what do I do? Do I pull deputies off a rape case or a homicide, to go look into a home robbery? Do I pull deputies in from going after the drugs that are the root cause of robberies?” The fact is, there is only a certain level of coverage and protection that the current level of funding can provide and while Gilbertson states he is doing everything he can with that funding, he believes it his responsibility to provide the level of service that the public wants, so he has to find and propose ways to fund it. “It is part of my job as Sheriff …” Gilbertson stated in regards to finding the funding.
As for the shooting districts, it was only an idea that Gilbertson had floated to Commissioners as several highly congested areas of the county have had issues with property owners not acting responsibly and shooting into neighbors’ property causing concern over potential loss of property and life. While shooting into someone else’s property is already a crime, some landowners feel threatened, and fear retaliation if they were to file charges against their neighbors. Gilbertson says that the issue of shooting districts is now dead, and he asks citizens to file reports so they can be properly followed up, as shooting incidents endanger lives.
Gilbertson reiterated his previous statement at a recent public forum, “we have a wonderful shooting range in this county, Sportsman Park, where people who live in congested areas can go and shoot responsibly.”
Looking toward the future, Gilbertson is unsure of how the current economic downturn will affect the community as far as the sheriff’s department is concerned, but he has stated, “the Sheriff’s Office is under-going a Strategic Recovery Planning process … regardless of funding considerations, we are committed to performing a Top-to-Bottom review and revision of the Office’s operating policies and procedures. This review will work towards optimizing efficiency as well as ensure that our exposures to potential losses are minimized.” One thing Gilbertson is sure of, he will defend the public’s Constitutional rights and do his job to the best of his ability.