In response to the social and political unrest that has marked much of 2020, a group of concerned citizens has offered its services to the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office.
A group of approximately 30 Benewah County citizens form the unofficial posse, The St. Joe Valley Watchmen, that started earlier this year.
“We had met some time ago. Earlier in the year, with (Benewah County Sheriff) Dave Resser and going over the fact that we didn’t’ know the stability of our country and what was happening in the area. Antifa and some of the others were creating havoc in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene,” Mr. Thornton said.
Sheriff Resser then put the men in contact with the Light Foot Militia based in Coeur d’Alene in order to help the Watchmen organize.
“We are not interested in being part of them because they are a registered militia group, but we did get some good ideas from them of how to organize and what their goals were. They are a good group as far as I know,” Mr. Thornton said.
The St. Joe Valley Watchmen do not consider themselves a militia.
“That is not what we want to be. We want to be a group of trained and dedicated citizens that can protect citizens…whether it be violence in our town or something else,” Mr. Thornton said.
The group will also help with positive events.
“It doesn’t always have to be negative. It could be positive too, helping with parades in town or whatever is needed. We want to be in the community to do whatever it takes to help with food drives, and churches different functions that they have,” Mr. Thornton said.
The BCSO formerly had a posse that in addition to being available for law enforcement also participated in town events and parades.
According to Mr. Thornton, the group is made up mostly of retired law enforcement and military personnel and they do train for hostile scenarios.
“We have some highly-skilled people, our field officer was part of Blackwater, he spent seven tours in Afghanistan. He is qualified for hand to hand and self-defense training,” Mr. Thornton said.
Mr. Thornton said that the group also has a former SWAT trainer and assistance from a Fernwood group of approximately 10 retired police officers.
“We are level-headed. We are not young kids looking to go out and shoot somebody, that is the last thing we want to do,” Mr. Thornton said.
According to Mr. Thornton they have already removed some individuals they considered not to have the right mindset for the group. As part of the recruitment process, the group has an application form to establish the background and experience of those looking to join. A background check is also required.
“We don’t people to be worried. We want people to open their arms and welcome us in. We love the community, and we want to support the community. Most of us have lived here our whole lives,” Mr. Thornton said.
Sheriff-elect Tony Eells recently met with Mr. Thornton and said that their assistance is appreciated.
“It could be beneficial given personnel constraints. If something does happen in Benewah county there are only six of us. So, it is nice that we have something like that. Whatever issue we have is going to be in other counties too,” Sheriff-elect Eells said.
The St. Joe Valley Watchmen are actively recruiting. Those interested in joining should call Mr. Thornton, 208-582-4330.