by Travis Mateer
While I listened to the fascinating perspective of Rogers International owner, David Pritchard, as he reflected on the past year of providing security to homeless sites around Missoula, I realized how incredibly valuable the work of citizens like Kevin Davis has become.
Would local media outlets have landed an hour-long interview with Pritchard, or offered their audiences a chance to ask questions and get direct feedback?
Nope, but they WILL get the same chance I had to listen and write about what David Pritchard is communicating to Missoula and the local officials who contracted his company to secure the periphery of homeless service delivery sites, like the Poverello Center, the Transitional Safe Outdoor Space, and the Authorized Camping Site, which is closing sometime this month.
To begin, let’s take a look at some numerical claims Pritchard makes, like his impression there are close to 800 “houseless” individuals in Missoula. Is this accurate? While I wouldn’t be surprised, Pritchard didn’t have any “hard facts” to back up this assertion.
Another number that seems significant is the $2.5 million dollars it WOULD have cost had real cops been paid to do the exact same work. Pritchard said this figure was referenced by city officials, and it’s significantly higher because of pensions, training, and other factors.
While private security is “always cheaper”, according to Pritchard, Rogers International is REALLY cheap, considering Pritchard boasted about not spending all the contract money while ALSO complaining that the city didn’t provide his guys PPE when asked.
Having worked with the same population Rogers was contracted to work with, there were some points I could certainly sympathize with, like the sentiment “the powers that be” are happy with the appearance of things being handled, when the reality on the ground is much different.
And what is that reality looking like to Rogers International? Lots of weapons, says Pritchard, especially machetes. Lots of machetes. And lots of overdoses. Pritchard’s exact words were “multiple, daily overdoses”.
It’s with this hell-scape in mind that perhaps the most troubling comments were made by this Veteran who hires primarily Veterans, and that’s when Pritchard said the homeless community was “not too far off from what you see overseas.”
I’m not sure I jive with this assessment, but I haven’t been overseas to check out the veracity of this comparison.
Closer to home, Pritchard offers another statement that I do jive with: “I don’t think their future plans are going to pan out the way they claim the are going to,” he said near the end of the discussion.
Now that Rogers International has been replaced by Black Knight, Pritchard has this prediction: Black Knight’s new model of providing a more “hands-off” approach to security will be ineffective.
The types of situations Pritchard described where his staff were effective generally required an immediate response. If you can’t be there in 60 seconds, what’s the point, Pritchard asked? Good question.
There were other fun parts of the interview as well, like Pritchard insinuating the controversial Missoulian article was a setup between Missoulian intern, Griffen Smith, and his “friend” on City Council. Would that be Daniel Carlino?
David Pritchard didn’t have to say anything about his company’s time securing homeless sites around Missoula, but I’m sure glad he did.
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Thanks for reading!