Sheriff McDermott’s LivePD Problem Could Become Missoula County’s Legal Problem

by William Skink

When I first heard that Sheriff TJ McDermott was bringing LivePD to Missoula County, I thought to myself, well, that sounds like a terrible idea, so of course everyone will just go along with it. Despite problems experienced in other states, McDermott chose to move ahead with this bone-headed idea to turn Missoula County residents into entertainment for profit.

I’m obviously not the only one who thought this was a terrible idea considering McDermott felt the need to write his own column in the Missoulian explaining all the due diligence he did, which you can read here

To step back from this for a moment, let’s recall some of the more pressing issues facing our County: we have holes in a bridge, an overcrowded jail, escalating property taxes and a thriving homeless encampment the Sheriff’s Department is actively ignoring. So LET’S BRING IN THE CAMERAS, says the Sheriff.  

I imagine there is some second-guessing amongst elected officials happening right now after an angry parent with a terrorized 15 year old wrote this letter to the editor appearing in the Missoulian today (online). Here is the letter in full:

On Saturday evening my son, 15, was sitting in his car in a parking area near Missoula, collecting himself before driving home up Evaro Hill. A Missoula County sheriff’s officer pulled up and asked him nicely how he was doing.

Then a camera crew from LivePD jumped out of a vehicle nearby and hustled over with cameras and lights, and the officer suddenly became aggressive and intimidating. He shouted at my son to tell him how much he’d been drinking, told him “Don’t lie to me,” and repeatedly made my son follow his finger with his eyes. The officer then rushed off to a car accident, leaving my son with a secondary officer.

My son was terrorized. He does not drink and was doing nothing wrong, which is why he was released to his parents when we arrived 15 minutes later.

This contract the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has with LivePD has already damaged community relations with law enforcement, starting with my teenage son. As a teacher, I have always supported other civil servants and promoted their work. But the sheriff’s office, production company and network are turning our citizens into entertainment for others, and the byproduct of that is appalling and destructive.

Well, that didn’t take long.

The Sheriff’s Department is apparently covered by the show’s insurance in case any litigation happens, which if I was the parent of this kid, I would be calling lawyers yesterday. Missoula County, however, is not covered. If this becomes a costly lawsuit for Missoula County, will there be any accountability for the elected official who went out of his way to get this dumb show involved with Missoula County residents in the first place, despite concerns voiced by community members?

Accountability doesn’t seem to be a concept that applies to our elected leaders, so I don’t expect much will come of this. I would love to be wrong.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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