Friday, July 18, 2014

Sheriffs are key to BLM mission, but local politics intrude

When the Bureau of Land Management faced down an angry, armed militia while rounding up rancher Cliven Bundy's cows last April in the southern Nevada desert, missing was a key ally. Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie and his deputies stayed on the sidelines of the conflict, leaving BLM and National Park Service rangers to manage hundreds of protesters, many of whom saw Gillespie, not the agencies, as the area's legitimate law enforcement authority. BLM had tried for months to secure a contract with Gillespie and his Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to assist in crowd control at Gold Butte, but the deal crumbled at the 11th hour. "Sadly, [Gillespie] backed out of his commitment shortly before the operation -- and after months of joint planning and sharing of accurate information," BLM spokesman Craig Leff said. Gillespie declined to be interviewed for this article, but earlier this month he blasted BLM in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. Gillespie accused BLM of being untruthful with him about the circumstances of the cattle impoundment, ignoring his advice to postpone the operation until the fall and using aggressive tactics to quell the crowd. "I think if anybody would look at how they handled the protesting with the use of Tasers and police dogs, anyone who had been in policing would question those tactics," Gillespie told the newspaper. "And I believe that led to the heightened interest and escalating the situation." Gillespie, who is not seeking re-election, was courted both by BLM and the Bundy family in the conflict, though he did not take a side...more

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