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Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor:

Recently, a local citizen submitted a letter to the editor and expressed some concerns about various law enforcement issues, such as the operation of the Roosevelt County jail and cooperation among law enforcement agencies. As your Sheriff, hopefully I can answer these questions and shed some light on how these issues are already being addressed.

I’ll discuss the jail operations first. Around 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union notified Roosevelt County that the existing jail was unsafe and threatened to sue if several serious problems weren’t rectified soon. Due to the age and condition of the facility, the only feasible solution was the construction of an entirely new building.

At the time, the Bakken oil boom was in full swing and projected crime stats indicated a large facility was necessary. Studies were done and a mil levy was presented to Roosevelt County voters in 2014 for the construction of a 60-bed facility. The levy passed and the new jail opened in 2017. By this time, oil activity in the Bakken slowed dramatically and a 60-bed facility was no longer necessary, but by this time, it was too late.

It's important to note that the Roosevelt County jail is strictly for county inmates. The Fort Peck Tribes operate a separate facility intended solely for enrolled tribal members.

Even with empty beds, jails are very expensive to operate and maintain. To lessen the strain on the RCSO budget, I reached out to the U.S. Marshals and set up a contract to house several federal inmates. The Fort Peck Tribes recently contracted with us for twenty beds but reduced that number to five beds last budget year. The money received from the federal and tribal contracts doesn’t cover all the operational costs of the new jail, but it helps significantly.

I would like to stress that Roosevelt County does not “make money” on these contracts. They simply allow us to utilize otherwise empty jail space to cover some expenses.

It’s also important to point out these contracts still leave us plenty of cells to cover our own needs. We have never had to turn away a county arrest since this jail opened and we likely never will.

Regarding local law enforcement agencies working together to address the crime issues in our area, I can assure you we do meet regularly and cooperate fully with one another to get the job done. My office regularly confers with the Fort Peck Tribal Police, Wolf Point Police Department and Montana Highway Patrol to work on issues as they arise. We also work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals and other federal agencies in our area. I currently have a deputy assigned to the FBI Safe Trails Drug Task Force.

I am sure you are all aware of the police shortage for the WPPD. The Fort Peck Tribes and Roosevelt County are assisting by covering shifts for the City of Wolf Point.

With the upcoming primary in June, we need help from the citizens of Roosevelt County. It is time to renew the Public Safety mill levy, and we need your vote. The money generated from this mill levy goes toward staffing positions for deputies and jailers and pays for several other items vital for public safety. Please get out and vote yes on Roosevelt County’s Public Safety Levy. We cannot afford to lose anymore law enforcement in our area.

If any citizen has questions regarding crime issues in our community, please reach out to me. My door is always open to all of you. Thank you, Sheriff Jason Frederick (Editor’s Note: The original letter was published in the Northern Plains Independent, but we thought the sheriff’s response should be shared with the readers of the Community News.)

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