Candidates for Sheriff speak out at forum

Skye Kinkade
All four candidates for Siskiyou County Sheriff, including Parish Cross, Bill 'Butter' Reed, Jon Lopey and Jim Betts spoke at a Candidate's Forum at the Lake Shastina Community Center on April 29, 2010.

The dwindling budget, issues with the county jail, community involvement and medical marijuana were among the major topics addressed by all four Siskiyou County Sheriff candidates during a Candidate’s Forum held on April 29.

Parish Cross, Bill ‘Butter’ Reed, Jon Lopey and Jim Betts introduced themselves and answered several questions formulated by the Lake Shastina Future Planning Committee, who hosted the event. They also addressed questions directly from the audience.

With various backgrounds in a broad range of law enforcement agencies both in and out of the county, each of the candidates have unique experience that would serve them well as Sheriff.

Cross currently serves as the Mount Shasta Police Department’s chief of police. Reed is a detective at the Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office, and has worked at various agencies around the county. Betts has worked in the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department for 29 years, and is currently the Department’s Operations Commander. Lopey recently retired from a 33 year career with the California Highway Patrol, and has nearly 38 years of military experience.

Each of the candidates acknowledged that the budget is probably the most pressing issue facing the future of the Sheriff’s Department. Each of the men had their own ideas of how they would deal with this reality.

Each of the candidates differed on their vision for the future of the jail. From Bett’s commitment to continue and expand programs that assist inmates in rehabilitation while in custody, to Reed’s comment that jail shouldn’t be “Club Med,” each of the candidates had their own take on the situation.

Several of the candidates are Siskiyou County natives, and each said they have specific ideas to get the Sheriff’s Department more involved in the community.

Lopey said he’d like to get more involved with programs like Neighborhood Watch and a Citizen’s Academy, which would educate the public about how to protect themselves. He also said if elected, he’d be donating a portion of his salary back to fund the chaplaincy program.

Cross stressed the importance of deputies working in areas where they live and being out in the community, setting an example for children, while Reed explained that he’s always been volunteer oriented person.

Betts said the Sheriff’s Department has made several steps to get deputies out of their cars and out into the community.

The issue that was perhaps most charged was a discussion centered around medicinal marijuana and the possibility of marijuana being legalized in November.

Reed stated that he doesn’t believe that medicinal marijuana has been used appropriately and has become more of a license for recreational use.

Lopey said he believes that if pot is legalized, there will always be a black market which could attract more crime. He also said he was concerned it would lead to health related problems and increased exposure to children.

“It will take ingenuity and enforcement, and education of our leaders and the public to ensure everyone complies with laws,” Lopey said.

Betts said legalization could bring crime rates up, especially since growers may be more targeted as victims.

“I’m all for the Compassionate Use Act, but not its abuse,” he said. “Problems will not go away if its legalized... we need to do what we can to crack down [on those who violate the law.]”

“If it’s legalized, we need to be prepared for it,” said Cross. “We need to find a way to regulate and keep an eye on it... if people violate the law, they will be prosecuted.”

Jim Betts, who is currently the Operations Commander at the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department, answers questions from the audience during a Sheriff Candidate's Forum at the Lake Shastina Community Center on April 29, 2010.