Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter is starting a new school safety program for Cascade County.  School shootings around the country as well as threats here in Montana prompted the action.  Here is the transcript of today’s interview.:

Pat: On the morning show every Wednesday the sheriff of Cascade County, Jesse Slaughter joins us. Sheriff, you brought in some really cool stuff that we're going to talk about right here. And it's what we call the unveiling, shall we say. And you have talked about with the Mill Levy coming up on the November ballot, you want to put some people undercover in the schools.

Sheriff Slaughter: Absolutely. We've tried to talk about different target hardening, different things we can do, and we're doing a lot of those. But security is all about different layers. And at the end of the day, I think that we owe it to our bosses to make sure that we protect our most important resource and that's our children, and that we do that with armed personnel who are trained and ready to answer the call if need be.

Randy: You brought in a safety pack, tell us about it.

Sheriff Slaughter: So it's just a covert way that we want to deploy this resource into our schools. The last thing I want as a sheriff is the last thing I want is someone standing there with a rifle and your children walking to school. That's not a good thing. It's also not a good thing because it's not a good thing for any possible adversaries to know that. So trying to come up with I think under cover is a wrong term because if it was undercover, we wouldn't even be talking about on the air. Covert. I think that's the correct to break it down to people what our plan is. It's going to look a lot like the US. United States Air Marshal Program. These are going to be highly trained, and I know they're going to be highly trained because I'm going to train them myself. People that are going to go out into our schools and basically probably do nothing because the second we launched this program, we'll have hardened all of our targets and this will be a non-issue.

Pat: You call it a sling bag. What's in it?

Sheriff Slaughter: So in this particular one, we have a couple of models that we're going to use. In this particular one is the CZ Scorpion pistol, which is technically a pistol carbine. And then we also have one which is an M-4 carbine in case we get into situation where we have bigger areas, bigger schools, different things like that.

Randy: This firearm is very scary looking.

Sheriff Slaughter: Firearms are scary, and firearms are dangerous. In fact, some people probably say they're terrifying. Right. But I think the most terrifying thing is for us to ever lose a child of violence in our schools. I think that's the most terrifying thing.

Randy: We did have Commissioner Don Ryan in earlier today, and we talked to him about the program, and his concern was arming an untrained person in a school? But you've touched on that.

Sheriff Slaughter: Yeah, that's absurd. I would never put an untrained person in a school. In fact, they will be extremely highly trained to make sure that they know exactly what they're doing. And one of the reasons we're using the special Services officers with this program is we're going to train them basically to do one thing, and that's use force. I'm going to try to recruit from the ranks of retired law enforcement and retired military. So, they already come with those skill sets, but then we're going to enhance that training even further. They'll be required to attend annual active killer training. I don't like to call active shooter because they're bad people. Active killer training. And then they'll also have about a once-a-month qualification course they'll have to go through to ensure their skills. And the equipment isn't perishable, too, because you can sometimes run into an equipment issue, which creates a hazard for you as well. So, we're going to do it very frequently to ensure both things are in check.

Pat: Don Ryan also said and we're not blasting Don Ryan. I'm just saying what he said, and we want you to respond to it. He said he doesn't think you'll get a lot of retirees or former military people to help you out, perhaps in this case, because you're only paying the wage of $80-100 a day.

Sheriff Slaughter: Yeah, I've had a lot of people actually say they would volunteer for this. There's always possibilities that that's the case in everything. I have a feeling this is a major priority, and I think there's a bunch of men and women out there that have a sense of purpose, and this would bring their sense of purpose to them. And I disagree. I think we'll do just fine as far as that goes. The fact is we're going to pay them. A lot of places are looking for volunteers to do this type of work, and we're not. We're going to come up with a plan to pay them.

Pat: Would it be 80 to 100, like a substitute teacher?

Sheriff Slaughter: Yeah, that's about we're looking at we looked at saying, okay, well, let's just hire deputies for all the schools. So I have a school safety committee. Tom Moore is on it. Mark Finnicum, Paige Turoski, Marley Sunchild, Chief Jeremy Jones, Tom Jacobson is on there. Chief Newton sits on there. And we talked about putting SROs in schools, every school to satisfy this need of having.

Pat: But they'd be uniform then, right?

Sheriff Slaughter: Well, typically we don't uniform our SROs but be fully sworn everything. The problem is just the salaries alone for our 35 schools was $4 million. Just the salaries. We didn't include benefits, we didn't include their vehicles, we didn't include their equipment. So we'd be asking for a ten to fifteen dollar public safety mill levee and I just don't think that obviously, I don't think the citizens in this county can afford it, period. It's not a matter of whether it's a priority. I think they'd all agree it is. They couldn't afford it. So that's why this community hired me, is to come up with a creative solution to solve this problem. Now, here's the one thing. Every school district, so there are seven school districts in the county, there's multiple in the city, but there's one main one, which is Great Falls Public Schools. And then you've got private schools. Every school district and every school board gets to make their own governmental decision on what they want to do with this program. If they decide they don't want this program, that's fine. They don't have to do this program, that's on them, end of story, but, you know, that's up to them. I think the appetite of the people in this community, the majority, is they want somebody protecting their kids, period. They're tired of it. They don't want to see this on the news. And they want to know every day when they take their kids to school that there's someone there that could protect their children.

Randy: In studio with us this morning, our weekly guest Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter. And I was impressed at the cost. Talk about the investment that is going to be made on each one of these safety bags.

School Safety Sling Bag

Sheriff Slaughter: Yeah, so it's right around $1,400 per bag. We initially were well over $2,300. I actually had to scale it back a little bit. And part of the reason I did is because in talking to the superintendents, particularly the rural school superintendents, they're all behind this idea. They love this idea. And so we had to kind of scale it down because we got to buy more stuff. I'm going to approach the Sheriff's Legacy Foundation today at noon with a pitch to get this fully funded so we can get this off the ground. The thing is, I'm going to bring up some kind of a bone of contention. The alternative is going to be sooner or later, we arm our teachers. And I don't know if that's the appropriate course of action. I'm not opposed to it. So, if a school district comes to me and says, hey, we help us with a plan to arm our teachers, I will fully, fully support that, train it, help them do everything I can to ensure they do it. But the argument always is, well, the teachers aren’t trained, the teachers don't have the mindset. They're schoolteachers, they're not warriors or guardians or whatever. That's a great point, but that's because the argument so then I come up with a solution from a law enforcement professional law enforcement organization to highly train them, fund it, and do everything, and it's like, oh, no, we can't have that either. Okay, well, what do we have? The only other option is for the law-abiding citizens to give up all of their liberties. That's the only other option. And we're not giving up the Second Amendment. I mean, there's more at stake than we can imagine. So, we have to find a solution. And I think this is a great solution that kind of can keep everybody safe, but also serve the purpose it needs to serve.

Randy: Before we go, Sheriff, is there a way for people to donate to help support the school program safety program?

Sheriff Slaughter: Absolutely. So go on Facebook and on the interwebs and go to the Sheriff's Legacy Foundation. That's our foundation. That's who I'm going to hit up for this initial thing. Because here's the thing. I want to see this go. Regardless of whatever happens with the levee, the levee is going to pass. I'm positive of that. But I'm just saying I want to make sure that we put one foot forward on this. But the Levy passing will fully fund it, fully ensure that we have a sustainable program for years and years to come and for us to make it better as time goes on. Here's the thing I want to share with everybody out there. People may have thought that I came up with this idea on my own. I didn't. This isn't actually my idea. This actually came from some citizens who came and saw me after Uvalde, and they came to me and said, hey, Sheriff, we have this idea where we think you could protect the schools effectively and efficiently. Some people are just concerned citizens. Some people came from a law enforcement military background. I had a lot of people come to me, and this goes back to when you're an elected official, you do what your boss tells you to do. And when they came to me and talked to me about it, they were very passionate and very serious. And so you listen to them and then you take your boss and you put their words and stuff into action. And that's the thing. We got to get back to that.

Pat: Sheriff, it's always great to talk to you.

Sheriff Slaughter: God Bless

To support the cause, you can donate to the sheriff’s legacy foundation.

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