Once a month, City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam brings a guest to the ‘City Talk’ edition of Talk Back, and on Friday the guest was Missoula Police Department Public Information Officer Travis Welsh.

Welsh, who has been the official spokesman for the police department for the last eight years, said he has developed an excellent relationship with local media in Missoula.

“I have been fortunate to have and continue to have some great relationships with people in the local news industry,” said Welsh. “Our local news sources have been great to work with, of late. That's not always been the case. We have had a bit of a tumultuous past, but I like to think that through the efforts that we've made in this last decade that we have closed a lot of gaps and we have created a lot of new relationships and have improved our communication with our city, and our residents.”

Welsh said a police presence at a local protest is a chance to build trust and relationships.

“Our presence at a protest is not necessarily to incite any kind of reaction,” he said. “It's more to do with making sure that all parties actively participating are safe in doing so. The right to peaceful assembly is of course, part of our constitution, and it's something that we uphold and enforce and believe in very dearly. It might be an example of where we might move through an area and speak with folks.”

Welsh was asked about the negative and positive roles that social media can play in law enforcement. He said it can be very helpful, especially in the search for a missing child.

“Social media comes into play there, because it's got such a wide following, especially when people start sharing it,” he said. “We really get a lot of coverage on missing persons, and even more so missing children. They see it. They react to it and they share it with friends that they have, and then those people share it, and before long, people in a fairly large geographical area know who we're looking for; what that person's name is, how old they are, their description and where they might be headed.”

Welsh commented on how the local police department can sometimes be painted with the same brush as other communities where their police forces have come under severe criticism.

“You know, it's become very easy for people just to say ‘police’ and kind of group us all together,” he said. “You know, in the long run, I'm not sure there's much we can do about that. We are as a department looking to move forward to keep adapting to change to continue our training and provide Missoula with the best law enforcement services that we can.”

Welsh was a Detective Sergeant with the police department before becoming the Public Information Officer.


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