SISKIYOU COUNTY, Ore.– The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Posse announced in a press release yesterday afternoon that it would be “disbanding” after almost 80 years serving the community. But according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, the posse itself isn’t going anywhere, just the nonprofit that currently owns the name.
Sheriff Jon Lopey called the press release inaccurate and released his own press release on Wednesday morning detailing how members of the sheriff’s posse were leaving and the posse would be reorganized and reconstituted.
“They have every right to disband as a board of directors and they have every right to divest from their nonprofit status,” he said. “But I don’t need a 501(C)3 or nonprofit status to run a group of volunteers.”
Formed in 1939 and incorporated in 1941, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Posse has supported the sheriff’s office on numerous occasions. Once the group was as large as 35 volunteers but now it has as many as 10.
In 2012, the posse faced what it described in it’s press release as a “mass exodus” of volunteers who felt they were undervalued and had lost the support and respect of the sheriff’s office.
The current president and a member for 27 years, Matt Rokes, says since then they’ve tried to hold it together but disagreements have led to this unfortunate circumstance.
“The group feels they’ve made every effort. We’ve had numerous meetings with the sheriff and his staff,” said Rokes. “We’ve been promised numerous things and those things have not come to fruition for whatever reason.”
As a nonprofit, the time and money the volunteers put in comes from their own pockets. Rokes said they asked for funding and overall support but received none.
“We would get a two or three page memo with all kinds of promises about equipment and vehicles and training and support and to be honest, none of those came to fruition,” he said.
Sheriff Lopey disagrees and said not only has he given them accommodations for the work they’ve done for the community, he outlined a clear vision of the posse’s duties and what they would be getting in a Sheriff’s Vision Letter he distributed in February.
“The whole idea that we weren’t tapping into that resource is not very accurate because we did use them and they performed a lot of very viable functions,” said Sheriff Lopey. “They’ve done a lot of good work for the sheriff’s office and the citizens we serve.”
The work included participating in SARS activities, animal recovery and evacuations and marijuana investigation teams. But members of the posse weren’t on the same page as the sheriff.
“Goals and future missions and assignments haven’t jived with what the group has wanted to do,” said Rokes.
Sheriff Lopey says the disagreements have nothing to do with the posse as a whole. He feels that there are several member’s whose conduct like the announcement that the posse was disbanding has become a problem.
“We have standards of conduct and those standards of conduct have to be followed and in every instance I wasn’t satisfied that was being done,” said Sheriff Lopey. “That includes inappropriate social website postings.”
He says that any information that is released under the name “sheriff’s posse” should be authorized by the sheriff’s office. Rokes says they did try to work with the sheriff’s office before the release but didn’t receive any feedback.
Still, the posse members don’t hold any ill will towards the sheriff’s office and Sheriff Lopey says he expects some of the members from the current posse to join the new one.
“Sometimes it’s kind of like a marriage and if a marriage doesn’t work out you gotta divorce,” said Rokes. “Unfortunately, sometimes divorces get ugly but we have nothing bad to say about the department.”
The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office held a meeting Wednesday evening outlining plans for the new sheriff’s posse that will be formed. The first recruitment meeting will take place on May 24 at the Yreka Campus of the College of the Siskiyous.
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.