by Travis Mateer
While I’ve been interested in how private security is interfacing with Missoula’s challenging and complicated homeless population since last October, when it was announced Roger’s International would receive a $670K contract to provide “security” around homeless sites, it wasn’t until after December 15th that I became EVEN MORE invested in understanding these evolving, and poorly reported, dynamics.
I won’t be getting into the details about the incident that ignited my interest in today’s post beyond stating this: my awareness regarding how this private security firm was PATROLLING city terrain, blocks from the Poverello Center’s main facility on West Broadway, rapidly evolved.
It didn’t take me long to uncover the fact RI used a fake address to establish its business license with Montana’s Secretary of State office. When I spoke to Lynn Pritchard on the phone about this, she claimed that RI moved from this location. As it stands right now, this appears to be a lie. If Lynn Pritchard can provide me ANY proof that RI ever existed at 1211 S. Reserve St, I will gladly amend this post.
After being lied to on the phone by Pritchard, I started working my sources. The picture that emerged, after speaking with a few first responders, is one of frustration and suspicion regarding the role of RI. One individual from Missoula PD went so far as to describe RI as tracking homeless people through the neighborhood, then calling 911 on them for various infractions, like trespassing.
Until last Friday, I couldn’t confirm this claim. Then I met Howard, who HAPPILY told me about his experience with RI.
That short (and delightful) interview with Howard helps provide some color to how RI is impacting the local homeless community. For any boots-on-the-ground first responders who may be reading this, please take note the agitation described, because if RI security staff are consistently behaving this way with people on the street, there are going to be A LOT of calls for assistance.
On Sunday, NBC Montana took a very informative look at Roger’s International, which included David Pritchard (and his glorious beard) discussing relationship building, use of force, and those unpredictable Ft. Hood moments that, like, NO ONE can foresee. Yes, you read that right, David Pritchard, upon being asked about his staff’s mental stability while carrying firearms around Missoula, referenced the Ft. Hood shooting.
While David (and his glorious beard) and our Mayor tried downplaying armed guards roaming the dark alleyways like WELP, THAT’S JUST OUR WORLD NOW, I was busy roaming downtown and synchronistically speaking with ANOTHER insightful homeless man. This guy provided me TWO fruitful clues I followed up on, but I’ll describe what just one of them produced, which is the REAL location of Roger’s International.
This innocuous commercial plaza behind Baskins&Robbins doesn’t OBVIOUSLY house RI. You have to go in, like I did, and check out the directory to find their SECRET AGENT location.
Before I located RI’s REAL office in Missoula, I had just visited the homeless site recently established near the sewage treatment plant, which was quickly put under RI’s private jurisdiction. It is unclear to me if all these sites are under ONE contract, or if the Montana Department of Transportation inked a separate contract with RI to patrol the various jurisdictions that comprise the illegal Reserve Street encampments.
This is the “official” new outdoor camp where a physical assault was spun like the shifting GREAT COJONES swung by our GREAT LEADER (Mayor Engen) as he amazingly frames this assault as an example of RI’s success. I shit you not.
The arrest of a man Sunday in Missoula’s authorized camp site shows how a private security company contracted by the city is patrolling at-risk sites.
Police say Rogers International helped officers when they arrived to an emergency call Sunday. One man claimed another man, Henry Hall, threatened him so he had no choice but to hit Hall in the head with a piece of wood.
Accounts show the Rogers International officer helped fill in some blanks for police, telling them where Hall hid after the incident and discussing behavior patterns that backed up the first man’s story.
See how helpful they are, Missoula? Isn’t this helpfulness wonderful? And also CREATIVE because of all that nice Federal loot?
Mayor John Engen told us another round of federal funding is being planned for 2023. But it will run out, and the city is up against a cap on new tax levies.
Just the same, Engen told us that what he calls creative solutions to the homeless problem appear to be working.
Yes, the emphasis that should have steam blowing out of your ears is all mine.
The reason I stopped by this official camp was to confirm whether or not Congressional candidate, Tom Winter, had made the visit he promised to make on Twitter.
When I visited, I can confirm two things: Tom Winter DID drop off some supplies, and the RI staff I spoke with WAS INDEED quite helpful. I explained to him, the RI staff member, how my sympathies are with the people on the ground doing the actual work of triaging impossible situations created by our officials, like Mayors who ink contracts with security firms who lie and use fake addresses to get business in Montana.
Once upon a time paid journalists did this kind of investigative work for publications like the Missoula Independent, but that paper was destroyed by Lee Enterprises on September 11th, 2018, so now it’s up to journalists with gonzo baggage like mine reporting from the trenches with what the Skylers and Zoes won’t touch for their Lee paymasters.
If you would like to alleviate some of my fiscal worries, you can help by contributing to my GoFundMe page.
Thanks for reading!