Sho-Ban tribes call for local sheriff to resign and publicly apologize
BLACKFOOT — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are calling on Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland to resign after a disparaging statement attributed to Rowland was published by local and national news media Wednesday.
The comment, aimed at those living on the Fort Hall Reservation, was allegedly made by Rowland during a criminal investigation by the Idaho Attorney’s General’s Office. That investigation resulted in felony charges being filed against Rowland for allegedly threatening a Latter-day Saint youth group who had posted a thank you note on his door, rang his doorbell and ran away.
Court documents say Rowland pulled an adult youth leader out of a van by her hair while pointing a gun at her head in front of seven girls ages 12 to 16.
In investigative documents, Rowland is said to have referenced recent threats against him, which caused him to be wary of people approaching his home.
“I have been doing this job for 36 years, I have had drunk Indians drive down my cul-de-sac,” Rowland told investigators, according to court documents. “I’ve had drunk Indians come to my door. I live just off the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people.”
That statement caught the attention of the tribe and Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Devon Boyer. The tribes released an “official statement of disappointment” on their Facebook page.
“We ask Rowland to officially step down as Sheriff and offer a public apology to the Fort Hall community,” Boyer said in the statement. “We hope the woman and the children involved will be able to heal from this traumatic incident. This incident should not have occurred but proves racism still exists. We need major relationship building between our communities.”
Boyer called Rowland’s statements “racist,” and the use of the racial slurs about “Indians” extremely offensive. The Shoshone Bannock Tribes also said local law enforcement has a decades-long history of violent criminal conduct towards tribal members.
Rowland’s attorney Justin Oleson attacked EastIdahoNews.com for publishing the statement included in the probable cause affidavit. He called EastIdahoNews.com a tabloid and said there was no reason to include the statement other than to cause drama and unrest.
“That statement was taken completely out of context by the investigator and East Idaho News,” Oleson said to EastIdahoNews.com “It appears that occurred so that Sherriff (sic) Rowland’s name could be further slandered and his reputation tarnished by the media in an attempt to sway the jury of public opinion. Sherriff (sic) Rowland has had a good working relationship with the Shoshone Bannock Tribes and Tribal Members and has the utmost respect for his law-abiding neighbors on the reservation.”
When the investigation into Rowland began, he took administrative leave, according to Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers. Once the investigation concluded two weeks ago, Rowland returned to work as the sheriff.
Rogers is not prosecuting the case and has asked the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to handle the matter in accordance with Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct.
Idaho Law limits Bingham County’s actions against a sheriff accused of a crime. The law states the officeholder would only be removed if convicted of a felony or any public offense involving a violation of their oath of office.
Rowland’s first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 22.