Missoula Justice of the Peace Candidates Clash on Talk Back
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Running for reelection, Missoula Justice of the Peace Alex Beal appeared on the KGVO Talk Back show this week to take calls from listeners.
Beal began by describing the role of a Justice of the Peace.
“The process of running for judge is a whole lot different than if you're running for the legislature or county commissioner or one of those partisan political positions,” said Beal. “I'm not here to tell you about how I'm going to change the world with this policy or that, as a judge, but what I will say is that I'm qualified, I'm experienced, and I've done a good job. I have the support of all the other elected judges in Missoula. I have the support of a tremendous number of law enforcement officials and officers, I have the support of prosecutors and defense attorneys as well.”
Beal says Jail Should be a 'Carrot and Stick'
Beal described his philosophy of using jail as part of a ‘carrot and stick’ approach.
“We try to structure a sentence where there are both carrots and sticks,” he said. “So you did a bad thing. You need to be punished and here is what that's going to be. It's going to be a certain number of days in jail. But we want to keep out there the ability to say, do your alcohol treatment, behave well, don't drink and if you do that, you're not going to see the rest of the jail (sentence), but it's out there over your head to ensure compliance.”
Beal Blames Perceived 'Revolving Door' at Jail on the Sheriff
Asked about the seeming perception of a ‘revolving door’ for offenders at the Missoula County Detention Center, Judge Beal laid the problem at the feet of Sheriff T.J. McDermott.
“When the sheriff took away the ability to put any nonviolent misdemeanor in jail, he took away that discretion,” said Beal. “He took away the discretion of law enforcement. He took away the discretion of the judges, and he just undermined the whole system. And so I'm frustrated. You know, I've had this conversation with him quite a few times. But he has stuck to this process, and it's really unfortunate because it has caused I think, a lot of the problems we have seen in the community over the last two years.”
Beal said Justice Court was 'a mess' Before he Took Office
In closing his time on Talk Back, Beal reminded listeners about what a mess the Missoula Justice Court system was before he took office.
“When I got to Justice Court four years ago, things were kind of a mess,” he said. “I was able to work with Judge Holloway to clean it up, to make it a functional system with clear records, and to be a court of record that provides accountability. We did those things. We'll continue to do those things over the next four years. So that's why I hope that you join all of Missoula as other judges and tons of law enforcement in supporting and voting for me.”
Retired Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Captain Bill Burt is running for the Missoula Justice of the Peace position currently held by incumbent Alex Beal.
Burt Followed Beal on the KGVO Talk Back Show this week to answer questions from listeners about his run for Justice of the Peace in Department One.
Retired Cop Sees Rising Crime as his Reason for Running
Burt said like many law enforcement officers, he sees rising crime as his motive for running for the office.
“There's a lot of frustration in law enforcement right now, because a lot of times they do see people back out on the streets, oftentimes before they're even getting their paperwork done,” began Burt. “We’re re-arresting the same people over and over for the same things. I do agree with (Judge) Alex (Beal) in the sense that police officers and judges do have an extreme amount of discretion when it comes to a lot of these things. But a lot of that discretion has already been exercised before a person gets to court.”
Burt Reacted to Judge Beal's Statement about the Sheriff
Burt said Beal was wrong in blaming the sheriff for so many people being released from the jail, saying there are many officials involved in the decision.
“But it wasn't just the sheriff, in that he doesn't really have that authority just to talk about who can who can't be in jail,” he said. “That was a county-wide resolution and was something that a lot of partners came together on. The county commissioners were involved. It wasn't just the sheriff. It's important to note that because it involves all of the judges, the county commissioners, prosecutors, and it involves a big number of people to come together to make that work.”
Burt said homeless persons and transients must be held to a strict standard of behavior, just like everyone else.
“I know that there are a lot of challenges in the community with people who are destitute and you’ve got to take some considerations for people who can't afford it, but they have to have some stake in it,” he said. “To just release them with no real conditions to hold them accountable, is irresponsible and it's putting the community at risk.”
Burt Explained why Convicted Sex Offenders like to Come to Missoula
Burt said his direct experience with convicted sex offenders, who must register at the jail when they arrive in Missoula, has opened his eyes to the danger they pose to Missoula.
“Sex offenders, namely pedophiles, pick Missoula, Montana out of anyplace else in the world to come register to jail as a sex offender,” he said. “They were asked how did you pick Missoula? And his answer was, you guys are soft on crime. And I think that's a pretty common perception with people that are moving into this area.”
Burt said he has the knowledge and experience to establish the proper balance with due consideration for county taxpayers, the level of offense, and most importantly, consideration for the victims.