Western States
Sheriffs’ Association

Come In. Connect. Collaborate.


Sheriffs in the Western US face unique challenges.

You don’t have to face them alone.

A WSSA Membership will help you:

Build an alliance when facing distinctive concerns

Develop partnerships among Sheriffs from neighboring states

Connect with other Sheriffs who understand your experiences

Find an avenue to discuss matters unique to the Western U.S.

We know the role of Sheriff in the western United States is complex.


You want to serve your community with confidence and expertise. The problem is, Sheriffs in the Western U.S. often feel isolated—confronting each pressing matter independently. With such diverse terrain that includes large cities, sparse rural areas, massive federal lands, facing all of the issues that arise can feel like a constant uphill climb.


At Western States Sheriffs Association, we get it.


We know how important connection and collaboration are to law enforcement executives. A western Sheriff must balance matters like tribal concerns, floods, fires, and search and rescue alongside jails and other traditional responsibilities. That’s why we offer partnerships and provide timely resources. We help empower the office of Sheriff as we face concerns entirely unique in the western U.S.

Develop partnerships for the concerns you face every day.


Registration Is easy and affordable for even small agencies


We meet annually In Reno, NV and offer training opportunities throughout the year.

Strengthen your Service to Your Community

Protect the Interests of your community and serve them well.

Diamond Sponsors


Platinum Sponsors


Gold Sponsors


The mission of the Western States Sheriffs’ Association is to assist sheriffs and their offices with federal and state legislative issues, address policy and procedural matters, develop guidelines to promote uniformity in matters that are important to sheriffs of the western United States and to work together to keep the office of the Sheriff strong.

A Message From Our President

Fellow Sheriffs and members of the Western States Sheriffs Association,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you this next year as President of the WSSA I am both honored and grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to the opportunity to represent all of you as we continue to build this association.

As the Sheriff of Gilliam County, Oregon I have the privilege of serving a population of approximately 2,100 people in Oregon’s 3rd smallest county. Gilliam County is primarily an agricultural county and is bordered by the mighty Columbia River on the north and the majestic John Day River on our western border.

Born Gilliam County, I began my law enforcement career with the Gilliam County Sheriff’s Office in August of 1999 as a reserve deputy and assumed the office of Sheriff in June 2005.

The WSSA has been and continues to be a passion for me. I have watched as this organization has grown over the past few years. Our energy and priorities remain focused on public lands issues, the border crisis and now we find ourselves working hard to ward off new requirements being proposed by OSHA. We are fortunate to have a number of Sheriffs in-house who are subject matter experts on all of these issues, and I am confident we are, and will remain, strongly represented on these matters and others.

While advancing through the Executive Board these past 4 years, I have seen firsthand the growth of this association that encompasses 18 western states. I recognize the tremendous challenges we have in maintaining effective communication with our members and utilizing technology in ways that will grow our membership and provide sound financial footings for the future.

The WSSA was formed in 1993 with seven original states. Over these past 31 years, we have grown to 18 member states with over 1000 Sheriffs represented across the west and yet, less than half of them are actively involved as a member of WSSA. It will be a focus of mine over the course of this next year to increase our membership by marketing the brand of WSSA and promoting the good the organization is doing. I am encouraged that we have 10 states in the organization with 100% membership. We must engage with those Sheriffs in the remaining states to join forces and become 100% member states. I will also focus on reviewing our financial health as an organization. We will evaluate
the costs we incur to represent our membership on all fronts. The issues we must tackle over the next year and beyond will require considerable financial resources. I intend to seek the necessary means to allow us to function efficiently. Partnering with private industry to improve the way we communicate with membership, retain members, and grow in new membership will be one of the first items on my list of things to do.

I believe it is important that the work we are doing as an association reaches every corner of the western United States. We must advance our abilities to reach our membership and the citizens of the west so to keep them informed of the work we are doing as an organization. This will happen through the work of WSSA staff, volunteers, and the tremendous support from all of our business partners. Through effective and constant communication, we will open doors to greater support for the organization.

We remain committed to our mission to assist Sheriffs in matters of mutual concern regarding federal and state issues, and to constantly stand watch to protect the Office of Sheriff. This has been, and continues to be, our credo. I commit to you that I will work, in concert, with the Executive Board over this next year to ensure we do this together.

The voices of over a 1000 Sheriffs across the American west must continue to be heard.

I am grateful and honored to serve you as President and look forward to the future of the Western States Sheriffs Association.

Gary Bettencourt, Sheriff
Gilliam County, Oregon


The Story of the Sheriff’s Saddle

It’s a plain saddle, not covered in fancy silver Conchos or a lot of tooling. This is a practical, tough working saddle. The saddle sets empty of a rider, representing that the Office of Sheriff will have many occupants over time. You will notice that the stirrups on this saddle are adjustable, representing its need for adaptability to the persons who will occupy the saddle over time.

Attached along the right side is a scabbard and rifle representing the dangers that a sheriff will face while in office. He must be prepared to bravely face those dangers.

Attached to the back of the saddle are leather saddle bags. In the right saddlebag, you will find an ammunition pouch. That pouch carries an extra box of ammunition for the Sheriff’s rifle. This represents the dedication and endurance a Sheriff must demonstrate as he must be prepared for a long, tough fight. Also, in the right saddle bag is a Bible. The Bible represents the Sheriff’s commitment to a cause greater than himself. It represents honor, integrity, and eternal thoughts.

In the left saddlebag, protected in a leather pouch, are copies of the United States Constitution. The Sheriff must keep his solemn word to uphold and defend this sacred document.

Sitting next to the saddle is the Sheriff’s hat. Throughout his work, the Sheriff must protect his vision. He must be able to see his way clearly, and his hat protects him from the sun, the wind, and the rain.

Hanging off the saddle horn is a bridle and a set of spurs. The bridle and reins represent the Sheriff’s responsibility for directing his agency. The Sheriff also uses the spurs to signal the need to move forward or to pick up the pace, and a touch of the reins slows things down. Over time, a wise and practiced Sheriff learns to give subtle cues by simply shifting his weight in the saddle and finds that he only needs a light touch of the reins and spurs.

The Sheriff also carries a supply of hardtack in his saddlebags and a canteen of water slung around the saddle horn. The sheriff needs these things to maintain his strength. Tied behind his saddle is a bedroll. The bedroll represents the many long and cold nights that the Sheriff will spend away from his home.

In addition to the bedroll, there is a slicker draped across the back of his saddle. Throughout the journey, the Sheriff will encounter many storms. He must be prepared to weather the storms and do so under the protection of his duster.

Contributed by Sheriff Justin Smith (Ret.) Larimer County, Colorado