Believes funding presents the biggest challenge in county law enforcement

With his first term as Crook County Sheriff set to expire at year’s end, Jim Hensley is seeking another four years on the job.

“I’m just not ready to retire yet,” he said. “I have been involved with law enforcement in this community for over 30 years now and I have got a lot invested in this community ... I’m not ready, as the old saying goes, to hang up my spurs.”

When Hensley first took office in 2011, he was facing the economic fallout of the recession, which had left the sheriff’s office with meager funding to carry out county law enforcement.

Although the economy has begun to improve, Hensley feels they department is still in the same boat.

“The federal government owns about 60 percent of the land in this county,” he explained. “They don’t pay taxes like we do on real estate. If the private sector owned that, they (county government) would be able to collect taxes on that.”

Hensley noted that the federal government has provided county payments throughout the Secure Rural Schools Act, as well as payments in lieu of taxes to backfill the loss in revenue, but that income has steadily declined.

“They are cutting that funding, so it’s hurting the counties,” he said. “Something needs to be done.”

The reduced funding has forced Hensley to limit sheriff’s office personnel and services, and has left them unable to rent enough jail beds from Jefferson County to keep lawbreakers behind bars.

“If we had the money, we would rent more beds and get some of these people off of the street who should be in jail,” he said.

Given the hurdles the sheriff’s office faces, Hensley believes his experience and his ties to the community set him apart from any challenger who might emerge. Although he has not found any answers to the federal funding dilemma, he has made a point of voicing his concerns to Crook County’s representatives in Congress. Locally, he intends to work closely with the county budget committee to come up with ways to maximize the dollars provided for law enforcement.

Hensley said he would also lean on his experience to ensure that the sheriff’s office deals with criminal activity in the most effective way possible. He explained that he has spent the past three years as sheriff developing working relationships with other county entities such as the mental health department when handling crimes tied to mental illness.

“We need to help that person,” he said.

That concern for lawbreakers would remain a focus for Hensley if he was granted a second term. He believes those who commit crimes still deserve to be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity.

“We know these people. They are members of our community. They have friends and family here,” he said. “If feel that I have the leadership abilities and skills to instill that to where if people want to contact the sheriff’s office, they know they are going to be treated fairly, honestly, and they are going to have someone of integrity doing the job for them.”

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