MPD Chief on School Safety and Officer Involved Shootings
KGVO News was invited to a sit-down discussion with Missoula Police Chief Jaeson White on Tuesday who answered questions on a variety of public safety topics.
The conversation started with a question on what the Missoula Police Department’s policy might be in the event of a school shooting incident, such as the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.
“We do not have a standard operating procedure that we would go to for that,” began Chief White. “However, that being said, we have trained uniformly in the ALERRT system, which stands for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training. So we do have built-in responses that will be uniform but unfortunately not every given situation can be accounted for. “Our default is going to be to get into the school however we need to get into the school and be able to address the ongoing threat.”
Another sensitive question addressed the Missoula Police Department’s policy on officer-involved shootings. Chief White said an officer does have the right to use deadly force in very specific conditions.
“You have to look at the statutory authority that Montana gives us in the MCA (Montana Code Annotated) that allows officers to defend themselves from death or serious bodily injury,” he said. “We are also authorized to use deadly force to defend the life or serious bodily injury to another.”
Chief White said in the event of an officer-involved shooting, the investigation will be immediately transferred to the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in Helena.
“We will bring in the Division of Criminal Investigations from the state to do the criminal investigation into the matter,” he said. “They will be doing that criminal investigation. We turn everything over to them. The evidence, the body-worn camera footage if it exists, none of that belongs to the Missoula Police Department at that point in time. It all belongs to DCI as part of that investigation.”
With every officer-involved shooting, a coroner’s inquest is held to determine if the officer followed departmental policy or may have broken the law.
“The coroner's inquest is presided over by a civilian coroner from another county,” he said. “So it's not going to be anyone from Missoula or anyone who had any participation in this incident. It's going to be someone who's a civilian who's from outside, and they preside over the jury that deliberates on it. During that hearing, the Missoula County Attorney's office presents information to the jury, and the jury makes the determination as to whether or not there's any criminal culpability on behalf of the involved officer.”
Chief White also referenced the recent SWAT team deployment that occurred near Southwest Higgins in response to a question from another reporter in which he stated the policy for deploying the special unit.