by Travis Mateer
National media attention can be a powerful thing, especially when labeling things RIGHT-WING. A local headline this week highlights the fear this potential labeling generates: Missoula Sheriff drops Oath Keeper affiliated training. From the link (emphasis mine):
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office canceled two upcoming training sessions for detention facility staff that had featured a self-described Oath Keeper and “constitutional sheriff” as the trainer.
In an email on Monday to the Missoulian, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jeannette Smith said Missoula will no longer hold two sessions scheduled for May 31 and September 19 with Richard “Rick” Whitehead. The decision came after Reuters published a story on May 6 focused on U.S. police trainers with far-right ties instructing hundreds of law enforcement officers in the country. The story highlighted Whitehead, an Idaho-based police training consultant.
See? Everything would have been just fine if Reuters hadn’t published a story about FAR-RIGHT TIES amongst U.S. police trainers.
I’m sure glad Reuters came along and inspired such quick, preemptive action, as communicated by MCSO spokeswoman, Jeannette Smith. Otherwise, can you imagine what would have happened if our Sheriff Deputies got trained by this guy? I bet they might be more prone to shoot black dudes in the back.
Reading further in the Missoulian article, the training ALREADY administered probably means we’re too late.
When asked if Whitehead’s values reflect that of the Missoula sheriff’s office, Smith did not answer.
“Missoula County Detention Facility personnel have attended trainings offered by Richard Whitehead & Associates LLC following a program change in July 2021,” Smith said in an email. “In light of the recent article, Missoula County Detention Facility will no longer attend training presented by Richard Whitehead & Associates LLC.”
Whitehead posted twice in September 2021 on his Facebook page about visits and trainings in Missoula. He also posted in April and May of 2021 welcoming the Missoula Detention Facility to his Officer in Training model, which he also refers to as the “common sense model.”
Smith confirmed the trainings were only for jail staff — no sheriff’s deputies attended.
The emphasis is where I’d ask Jeannette a follow up question, and it would go like this: Hey, Jeannette, isn’t that guy who wants to be Sheriff pretty involved in leading the Detention Facility?
When I didn’t get a comment, I’d screen-shot my email and write-up a post answering my own question that, yes, Jeremiah Petersen HAS BEEN quite involved at the Detention Facility.
Here’s some official context from Petersen’s announcement for the office of Sheriff:
“I understand the level of commitment and leadership that it takes to maintain the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office as one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the northwest,” Petersen said in the release.
“TJ has done an excellent job moving the Sheriff’s Office in a positive direction and I intend to keep the momentum he has built over his last two terms moving forward in the next four years,” he added.
Petersen has been a member of the sheriff’s department for 20 years. He has worked as a patrol sergeant, captain of operations at the Missoula County Detention Facility, a member of anti-drug trafficking teams, and on the local mental health crisis intervention team.
I gotta say, the combination of working in a leadership position at the jail, along with “anti” drug trafficking teams and local mental health crisis teams, certainly makes it seem like he’s got the skills to take over for TJ McDermott and his boys.
What leaves me puzzled is how little love Missoula gets from the right-wing scaremongers. Take the Montana Human Rights Network, for example. Travis McAdam has been hitting this topic hard, but despite that, I think this cancellation is more than enough to appease them.
I sent Travis McAdam an email heads up about a REAL right-winger who is a REAL danger, and hopefully he takes it seriously. Because I sometimes get the feeling too many people in this state aren’t taking any of this shit seriously, and that needs to change.
Thanks for reading!