BONNERS FERRY — After 10 years in law enforcement in California, when Joel Minor came to Boundary County in 1999, he knew he was home.
“I knew it when I got hired into Boundary County — when I drove in — this is home,” said Minor. “I just felt it.”
As much as Minor embraced the community, the community embraced him. He was hired on at the Bonners Ferry Police Department by Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer, who was the Bonners Ferry Chief of Police at the time. Minor would later repay the favor.
Minor became the School Resource Officer, a position that the city had just obtained a grant for. He also worked as part of the D.A.R.E. program, along with his K9 partner, Babe.
“He was great working with the kids in our schools and helping teach them skills to stay off drugs,” said Kramer.
After a long career in the Marine Corps and law enforcement, including six years on the SWAT Team in California, Minor got an opportunity to do something he had never done before. The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho approached him about starting their own police department in 2013.
“I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of things in my career — I just never thought I’d start a police department,” said Minor. “I liked the idea. The Tribe never had a police department. They always had contracts with the county and the city.”
Through hard work, Minor established the first Kootenai Tribe of Idaho Police Department in October of 2013, taking his place as the Chief of Police.
Minor offered Kramer, who had originally hired him when he arrived in Boundary County, the position of police officer, which Kramer accepted, staying on until he was elected Sheriff.
“I had the privilege of working with Chief Minor and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho as a Tribal Police Officer,” said Kramer. “It was a great experience.”
The fledgling department found its feet under Minor’s care.
“The Department was designed around the needs of the tribe … period. And that is a nice thing,” said Minor. “Tribal Council makes the laws. What we are trying to ultimately accomplish is to work together as a team. We all know that’s what the laws are there for — it’s for everybody to cooperate and work together the best that we can.”
In January 2017, Minor recruited Heiko Arshat, and he took his place as a Kootenai Tribe of Idaho Police Officer.
“Chief Minor had been my supervisor when I was a police officer at the city for many years,” said Arshat. “Joel is an outstanding supervisor, an outstanding mentor, I consider him a personal friend, and he just has a really good style to him.”
Unfortunately, as time passed in Minor’s career, his years in the military and law enforcement, took their toll on his body, and he ultimately made the tough decision to retire.
“The spirit is still willing, the mind is ready, but the body is falling apart,” said Minor.
Minor had been discharged from the military in 1988 due to medical reasons after injuring his knee and shoulder.
“It was one of those can’t use you anymore ... sorry we broke you,” he said with a chuckle.
“They told me I would never run again any distance,” Minor explained. “They told me that I would always live with pain in my knee until I was at least 50 and then they would replace it. The shoulder was the same thing.”
And he has lived with that pain.
“I’ve hurt all my life. I’ve never stopped hurting — at least that’s what it feels like — since 1988,” said Minor.
He underwent multiple surgeries and replacements on his shoulder, knee, and hip, refusing to let the pain keep him from the career that he loved, but he finally reached a point where he felt that he could not continue without the chance of putting others in jeopardy.
“Right now I’ve gotten to that point — as much as I don’t want to,” said Minor, “but you have to hold yourself to the same standards as your own officers. I do the same job here is Heiko does, or any other officer ... it doesn’t matter.”
“I can’t do it to the degree that it needs to be done,” he said. “There is no way that I could live with myself if somebody got hurt because I couldn’t perform the way that I need to at this job. It’s one thing to hurt myself — I could live with that — but I can’t live with somebody else getting hurt because of me.”
On Thursday, Aug. 1, Minor was thrown a retirement party, at which point he transferred the badge to Arshat, who stepped into the position of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho Chief of Police.
“Joel is the one who got all of this rolling. A lot of the heavy lifting was done by Chief Minor and Sheriff Kramer before I came out here,” said Arshat. “We’re going to carry that forward and we certainly are not going to take any backwards steps.”
While Arshat is ready to take on his new role, he said that he wished Minor could stay on as the Chief of Police.
“Joel’s leadership and just general knowledge of all aspects of policing are going to be missed out here, and I’m going to do everything I can to give this department and this community the very best that I have,” said Arshat.
“Just because Joel is gone, it does not mean that I’m not going to be ringing his phone off the hook from time to time,” he continued with a chuckle.
“Joel has contributed a lot to our community,” said Kramer, “and I wish him the best in this next chapter of his life.”
Minor said that his plans for the future include healing and spending time with family, including his first grandson, who was born recently. He has faith in his successor to carry on in the role that he has reluctantly left.
“He has my total confidence,” said Minor about Arshat. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with him for many years. I enjoyed it tremendously.”
“I hate to leave,” he said. “I enjoyed the job very, very much. The community here has just been awesome. This feels like home.”
The people who have worked with Minor sadly gave him hugs as they left the retirement party, one by one. At the end of the day, Minor picked up the radio, and signed out of service — for the last time.
“People talk about how things lineup — and when they line up — they’re just right. That happened for me when I came here,” said Minor. “I wasn’t looking for this ... it just happened perfectly. It lined up — and I’ve loved every minute of it.”