If you live in Missoula, be forewarned that your property is not safe and police won’t arrest thieves or vandals during the coronavirus outbreak. When it comes to protecting your vehicles, fuel, food, and resources, you are on your own. The Missoula County Board of Commissioners and Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott signed a resolution yesterday that the jail will no longer take those charged with nonviolent offenses. They will also not arrest those who fail to show up in court for such offenses.
The move by Missoula officials is designed to protect inmates in the jail from coronavirus. If you’re a resident in Missoula who wants police protection for your property and neighborhood, you won’t be so lucky.
Brenda Bassett, a spokesman for the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, said, “That’s to protect civilians, inmates and detention staff. I think people understand why we need to start taking these actions when you have hundreds of people in one space.”
Unfortunately, the Missoula sheriff and commissioners just made it open-season on citizens’ property. Precisely at the wrong time, when law-and-order is needed most, they have signaled to criminals that they can ransack property and steal what they want without worrying about landing in jail. And as the resolution reads, they don’t have to worry about getting arrested for not showing up to court.
Missoula County Justice of the Peace Alex Beal said it was “good policy” and added, “As best as you can group them and predict them, this should do a good job of picking out the people who are a real, immediate public safety risk and letting go of the folks who are not.”
Apparently, prowling neighborhoods to steal property isn’t an immediate public safety risk.
Missoula follows other municipalities, mostly in California, who have used the coronavirus outbreak as a reason to release vast swaths of prisoners out of jail and to give law-enforcement a breather in patrolling and enforcing the law. Los Angeles made the move Missoula is now making several days ago.
The decision was applauded by the ACLU, who has been encouraging jails to let out populations and ease up on arrests. SK Rossi, ACLU of Montana’s director of policy and advocacy, has been encouraging Montana Governor Steve Bullock to follow suit and release inmates back into Montana’s population.
Missoula has been attempting to pass an ordinance making it harder for citizens to obtain firearms. Their message to the public seems clear; we don’t want you to protect yourselves, and in a crisis, we won’t protect you, either.