Sheriff Raney Uses Scare Tactics to Get Old Ladies to Give Him Money


Recently my mother received a message from Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney on behalf of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association. Here is what it says (along with my comments):

I am writing you, Ms. __________…..

….because I believe you are a law-abiding citizen who has worked hard for what you have. I also believe you are fed up with people who violently prey on innocent victims or turn to crime as an easy way to make a living with no responsibility to society.

I find this paragraph highly ironic. If there is any group in society more able to victimize people and steal a living with no responsibility to society, it is government police. Raney has already denied his responsibility to the people who elected him in favor of the unaccountable federal government. Police, unlike those of us who choose to peacefully convince others that our services are worth voluntarily paying for, live off of money taken by force. They cannot be fired; if one tries to do just that, they will be met with violence. Raney needs to look in the mirror, because the enemy he describes is himself.

Almost every day, I witness the lawless and dangerous criminal activities of thieves, drug pushers, rapists, molesters, murderers and other outlaws. Tax dollars to fight them only go so far, and competition is getting stronger every day.

It is only in government (or government-protected industries) that one can advertise how ineffective their “service” is and then ask for more money with a straight face. Seriously. Every time there is a financial crisis, inevitably caused by government policy in the first place, regulators who failed to prevent it claim to need more money and more power. After years of increasing spending per pupil on schooling far beyond the rate of inflation with stagnant student performance, the government still demands more money. Even the Idaho government has billboards encouraging soon-to-be high school graduates to “Go on.” This is akin to saying, “Even after paying tens of thousands of dollars and spending 7+ hours a day for 12+ years in our schools, your preparation for being a productive member of society is still inadequate.”

And so, being that competition is outlawed, Raney is able to say how terrible things he is supposed to be preventing are. I also find his use of the word “competition” interesting. What am I to make of one who thinks of “thieves, drug pushers, rapists, molesters, and murderers” as “competition”? As well, if crime statistics are any indicator, he is totally exaggerating, making him a liar, or he is completely failing in his duty to maintain public safety.

Our sheriffs want to see tougher laws and sentences for criminals, fairer treatment of victims, reduction in the endless, costly appeals and frivolous litigation of prisoners, and overall improvement in our criminal justice system.

The US has the largest incarceration rate in the world by far (over 700 per 100,000 while Russia is in a distant second with somewhere around 500 per 100,000. Canada: about 100 per 100,000). It would seem to be contrary to all evidence that “tougher” laws and sentences will be the thing that does the trick. As for fairer treatment of victims, I find this also to be ironic. In Anglo-Saxon law, it was traditionally the case that the convicted criminal would be made to pay restitution to his or her victim(s). Kings found that they could co-opt this system and institute fines for disturbing the “king’s peace.” Predictably, this led to increases in all types of actions that could violate the king’s peace, and therefore provide the crown with revenue. And so it is today: fines implemented as criminal punishment go to the coffers of the State, not the victim. In addition to not being compensated, the victim is then victimized further by the State in being forced to pay for the expensive incarceration of the criminal. Indeed, the idea that the Sheriff should be held liable for utterly failing to protect people from crime (as he has clearly admitted to doing) would be laughed at. Yet, companies like ADT provide guarantees such as paying your insurance deductible if your home is burglarized while using their system.

Thus, I think that for a true overall improvement in the criminal justice system, there would have to be a considerable change in institutional structure. Police have no incentive to prevent crime; think about the message they are sending in this video:

Instead of stepping out and kindly advising the couple to take a cab or call a friend, the “Invisible Cops” wait until they start driving their car. This means cops would rather stick you with a DUI on your record and risk public safety than doing something sensible. Also, it seems that private security does not want to make their presence a secret. Think about it: if you were an owner of a business, wouldn’t you much rather deter theft from happening than go through the awkward situation of confronting someone or the costs of calling the police, giving a report, etc.? But police get rewarded for making arrests, not preventing crime from happening (since that is more difficult to record).

I don’t think Raney would seriously desire to improve the criminal justice system, as his job security would likely be at stake.

But we need your help to be successful.

This letter is my invitation for you to become an Honorary Member of the Idaho Sheriff’s Association.

For just 7¢ a day for the next year ($25), your membership dues will be used by our Association to speak up and act on behalf of law-abiding citizens in Idaho and to aggressively initiate public safety efforts.

I find Raney’s emphasis on serving the law-abiding interesting. It could imply that if the police suspect you of not fulfilling the spirit and letter of legislation to a tee, then you are no longer considered a citizen worthy of the same rights and consideration of everyone else. And with cop culture commonly considering absolutely everyone a potential threat, instead of someone to be served and protected, this is dangerous thinking.

If you will return the attached form with your tax-deductible gift of $25 (or more) in the enclosed postage-paid envelope, we will send you a 2013 membership card for your wallet, a bumper sticker and window decal for your vehicle.

Hmm…why would anyone want to put a Sheriffs’ Association sticker or decal on their car? Do they really like the Sheriff’s Association that much? Or could it be that they expect favorable treatment from traffic cops, as this is the likely the most common encounter people have with police? I find the latter to be much more probable. And if so, should we consider it a bribe or extorted protection money?

Please help me provide better law enforcement and public safety for you and your family, and your country.

Why would he mention providing “better law enforcement and public safety for…your country”? He has no jurisdiction outside of Ada County. I don’t see how this could be anything but a false promise attempting to appeal to deeply held feelings of patriotism.


Gary Raney
Ada County Sheriff and President of the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association

My mother did not send him any money.


4 responses »

    • Public police tactics that resemble what services are available in the private sector would be appropriate. As hinted at, private protection puts prevention at a much higher priority than public police, who tend to only respond to crime that has already occurred. Indeed, look at any TV show about police and detectives: they are mostly about solving murders rather than preventing them.

      Thus, I think a litmus test for evaluating public police tactics is whether they seem like something a customer service oriented business would do (that is, one that actually has to convince customers that its services are worth paying for). For example, compare the response of security in the videos of protesters performing flash mobs at Target to the videos of people dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. Obviously, private businesses do not want to alienate potential customers nor face civil damages by body-slamming people in their store. As well, customers aren’t all treated like potential shoplifters as this would hurt their profitability.

      And thanks for the clarification.

  1. “But police get rewarded for making arrests, not preventing crime from happening (since that is more difficult to record).”

    I’m ashamed to admit that although I consider myself having above average understanding of economics and incentives, this never occurred to me. But a mere moment’s reflection reveals that it’s obviously true. Thanks for pointing it out!

    • Glad you could get something out of it.

      It was probably my study of criminal justice that led me to this insight before I started looking at criminal justice through a more informed economic lens. What’s interesting is one CJ professor thought it was strange that I majored in both economics and criminal justice. I think this is really too bad because economics is quite relevant to CJ policy.

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