What does new Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir have for breakfast? Yes, it involves old-fashioned eggs and hash browns. And, no, that doesn’t mean Muir is an old-fashioned guy.
After winning unanimous confirmation Monday by the City Council, Muir will take command in June—just weeks before the arrival of the Hell’s Angels, whose 2000 visit to Missoula provoked a police-versus-citizens melee.
With a soft-spoken tone, a sophisticated take on the city, and a sociologist’s understanding of law enforcement, the 17-year Missoula police veteran may have the right approach for the upcoming challenge. He could very well earn the title “riot whisperer” if all goes well.
“We’ve learned a lot” from the 2000 Hell’s Angels incident, Muir says at an early morning meal at the Press Box, pausing now and then to greet tables full of fellow officers.
Sporting khakis, a black polo shirt, and a semi-automatic .40 caliber Beretta, Muir doesn’t project the image of the stereotypical policeman. His actions aren’t stereotypical, either.
He’s currently teaching what he calls a “verbal judo” course, imparting techniques officers can use to defuse and deflect heated situations instead of inflaming them. Muir says he’s also been studying the Angels, following their travels across the country and noting patterns to help plan police work.
He’s also been planning town hall meetings and media outreach in anticipation of the Angel’s encampment at Marshall Mountain ski area, slated to happen July 31 through August 3. Muir laments that in 2000, the media “presented more of an alarmist attitude,” about the motorcycle band.
“Yes, they do live off the grid, and generally don’t want too much trouble with anybody,” he says. But the Angels also bring “an unpredictable element that’s a constant concern,” he adds, noting that a roadside stabbing of rival gang members followed a Hell’s Angels visit to Arkansas last summer.
“We don’t want to be alarmists,” he says. “We want to be realists.”