This year, Missoula County voters are fortunate to have before them two outstanding candidates for the office of sheriff. I have known both internal candidates, Brad Giffin and Carl Ibsen, for over 15 years. I have a great deal of respect for both of these men—both have extensive experience in the local law enforcement community, high standards of integrity, and the right motives for seeking the office of sheriff.
Two highly qualified candidates make for a difficult decision on Election Day. I believe the key that sets these candidates apart is their vision for the department, and I believe Carl Ibsen has the vision to take a fine department and make it even better. The sheriff’s department is a solid agency with many good officers, but it still has several big areas of opportunity. Two that stand out most to me are the scarcity of women on the force, and the lack of presence in local schools.
Over the past 20 years, the number of women working in law enforcement has grown significantly, but the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) remains static. Of the 50 sworn law enforcement officers currently employed by the department, only one is female. When she retires later this year, it will leave MCSO as an all-male department. The challenge in hiring and retaining qualified females suggests a culture within the department that is not in alignment with 21st century values. Carl Ibsen sees this, and has a plan to change it.
In the past eight years, the presence of deputies in Missoula County’s rural schools has become nearly non-existent. While the Missoula City Police have substantially strengthened their partnership with schools and special community groups in the last decade, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department has done the opposite. Visits to schools from officers have been reduced to barely one or two a year. Community police work prevents crime and helps keep kids on track, yet it has been one of the lowest priorities of the MCSO in recent years. Carl Ibsen understands this as well, and if he is elected sheriff, will make his deputies far more visible for crime prevention in our schools and communities.
I’ve observed that many current and former employees of the sheriff’s department have been outspoken in support of Brad Giffin, and I’m not surprised. Change—even positive change—can be uncomfortable. For the citizens of Missoula County who deserve to be protected by modern, progressive, community-oriented law enforcement, Carl Ibsen is the right candidate.