Talk Back Hosts Mayor John Engen and Police Chief Jaeson White
It was the monthly City Talk segment on KGVO’s Talk Back program on Friday, and the guests were Missoula Mayor John Engen and Police Chief Jaeson White.
Mayor Engen answered questions about the city budget, highlighting three areas of concern. The first was stopping the increase of property taxes.
“There are three sorts of highlights that I'll point out,” said Mayor Engen. “One is without even understanding our revenue sources this year, the nature of our taxable value I committed early on to holding property taxes at the 2020 levels. So for fiscal year 2021, we won't be raising property taxes.”
Engen also addressed the issue of funding for the Missoula Police Department.
“There are really two critical areas of funding that I believe go hand in glove,” he said. “One is additional support for the police department in the form of training and equipment and the other is our investment in housing and mental and behavioral health crisis response.”
Engen said funding is being established for a Mental Health Response Unit.
“It’s about how we respond appropriately to folks who are experiencing mental and behavioral health crises,” he said. “The city of Missoula, along with Partnership Health Center were awarded the contract for that mobile crisis unit that'll be deployed through our fire department, and the intention there is to provide some relief for first responders that are most often police officers who are called to crisis situations.”
Police Chief Jaeson White also answered questions from the Talk Back audience about the training provided for in the city’s budget.
“That's what I really focused our training budget on was being able to provide training on de-escalation, use of force and implicit bias and crisis intervention training and those types of things,” said Chief White. “So the good portion of our training budget will go to those types of training.”
Chief White was asked about what happens when a suspect flees from police, which can lead to a tragic conclusion.
Deadly force is authorized when an officer is confronted with having to defend the officers own life or defend a member of the public's life.
“Our goal is always to try to get someone to voluntarily comply with us, which is safer for the public, it's safer for the officer,” he said. “If we can get someone into custody in that manner, then that's best for everyone involved in and we allow the judicial system to process whatever the matter is, but we're always trying to get someone to voluntarily comply and that's what we would like to have happen.”
With riots and protests following police shootings, White was asked about the Missoula Police Department’s policy on the use of lethal force.
“Deadly force is authorized when an officer is confronted with having to defend the officers own life or defend a member of the public's life,” he said. “So we focus on preservation of life, and if the situation arises that an officer is confronted with deadly force, then our officers are authorized to use deadly force.”
Click here to listen to the entire podcast with Mayor Engen and Chief White.