After over 20 years serving the public in the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, retired Captain Bill Burt has thrown his hat in the ring to become Missoula’s next Justice of the Peace.

KGVO spoke to Burt on Monday, and he said running for JP has been on his mind for many years.

“Interestingly enough, I've kind of had my eyes set on this since I was about 25 years old,” began Burt. “I think there's a real natural transition from law enforcement work to Justice of the Peace. It's one of the only courtrooms where the judge doesn't have to have a law degree, and that's because it's a court for the people, and so I think that's really why it's important to have a judge that understands that concept and can stay connected to people.”

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Burt, as a career law enforcement officer, has his own views about the criminal justice system.

“When you get into the underbelly a little bit and see what is really at work, it's not really recognizable from when I first started,” he said. “Our violent crime rates are through the roof. I would even say that nonviolent crime is actually higher than what is being reported. I think a lot of times a lot of criminal cases go either unprosecuted or unreported.”

Burt provided this statement about the current court system.

“What I see as a law enforcement community whether it's the Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Office, or the Police Department, they're doing a really good job and working really hard to keep the community safe, to separate the bad people from the good people and to try to keep people safe,” he said. “There's just this revolving door to jail. Don't get me wrong, I really do see the benefits and believe in some of the jail diversion programs and the different things that are going on, but it probably should be the exception and not the norm.”

KGVO asked Burt if suspects in custody try to ‘game the system’ to get a favorable sentence from the judge.

“It goes even further than that,” he said. “There are hours and hours of video that can be viewed where just before a court appearance, a couple of inmates will get together and they will act in different roles. One will play the judge and one will play the suspect and then they'll practice what they're going to say to the judge or practice what they're going to say to their attorneys. After it's all said and done, they come right back to the jail and then they're basically mocking the criminal justice system because their tactics and ethics worked.”

Captain Burt officially filed his paperwork to challenge Alex Beal in the November election for Missoula County Justice of the Peace Department 1.

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