Sheriff candidate questionnaire: Jesse Slaughter

Name: Jesse Slaughter

Age: 41

Occupation: GFPD Master Police Officer – Assigned as a Detective on the Montana Internet Crimes against Children Task Force

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Undersheriff: Cory Reeves

Q: Why are you running for sheriff?

A: I care deeply for the people of this community and it has long been a dream of mine to be sheriff of Cascade County. The office is ready for a leader with a fresh perspective and new ideas. I am excited to partner closely with Cascade County citizens, other agencies, and the county commissioners to revitalize the Office and earn back the public’s trust.

GFPD officer running for sheriff

Q: What do you consider the top three challenges for the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office?

A: Reestablishing the community’s trust; Improving employee retention; Establishing effective partnership with other agencies

Q: What do you believe is the role of the sheriff in Cascade County?

A: It is the Sheriff’s responsibility to ensure the residents, business owners, and visitors of Cascade County receive professional and timely law enforcement, coroner, and adult detention services. 

Q: If elected, what would be your initial priorities? What would you do to accomplish those goals?

  • Regain the trust of the citizens of Cascade County. By promoting transparency and opening the doors of the office to invite the community in to participate in the county’s first citizens academy, a citizen advisory board, and a volunteer program. 
  • Improve response to requests for law enforcement services. By being a present and working sheriff I will work closely with the deputies and the 911dispatchers to establish protocols for prioritizing calls for service.
  • Bring back the resident deputy program. By having deputies reside in strategic rural communities, residents will experience faster law enforcement response times, deputies will be able to build close relationships with the community they reside in, and the presence of the deputy will serve as a natural deterrent for would be criminals. 
  • Increase security in the rural schools by working closely with students, parents, and school staff, and by trusting well-trained reserve deputies to stand guard over Cascade County’s youngest citizens.
  • Change the culture of legacy promotions and intimidation tactics. I will focus on employee retention and development by implementing a fair, transparent, and competitive promotion process.
  • Reinvigorate the now flailing reserve deputy program, by recruiting dedicated and qualified volunteers straight from the Cascade County community.

Q: If elected, what would be your approach to addressing drug/alcohol addiction problems in Cascade County?

A: I will be a working hands-on sheriff who will be involved consistently, not just during election years. I will partner closely with private and public entities to ensure pre-trial supervision programs, like the Montana 24/7 Program and Drug Treatment Court, are being executed as effectively as possible. When implemented properly these programs have great success with aiding in recovery and monitoring offenders while keeping them employed in the community.

I will make sure the office maintains a presence on the Russell Country Drug Task Force. 

A tragic side effect of the county’s illicit drug issue is many children are in danger of exposure, consumption, physical abuse, and neglect. I have spent years protecting the children of Montana and as sheriff that won’t change. I will investigate these cases aggressively and charge caregivers that subject their children to the dangers of drug or alcohol addiction.

I will work to add a narcotics K-9 to aid deputies when drugs are suspected during an arrest.

Q: What approach do you think the CCSO should take to address overcrowding at the jail? Do you believe the jail needs to be expanded or do you think there are ways to reduce the jail population through other means?

A: With the uncertainty of other detention facilities in the region, the Cascade County Detention Center will likely become the primary location for housing inmates in north central Montana. Expanding the CCDC is a possibility and may be necessary to obtain future Department of Corrections and federal contracts. I understand the financial burden will likely be unfavorable to tax payers and will do everything I can to look for other resources and innovative ways to fund any such expansion.

I will support pre-trial supervision programs that monitor offenders and keep them employed in our community versus incarceration. These programs often require treatment and could lead to even more successful outcomes.  

I am in favor of creating a work program where offenders, under supervision, provide services serving the community to pay off some of their fines in lieu of jail time.   

Q: What role do you think CCSO and law enforcement should play in crime prevention and how would you accomplish that?

A: It is imperative, as the county’s law enforcement agency, the CCSO proactively engage with the community to deter crime. There is no doubt, the system is most effective when agencies work together. As sheriff, I will partner with agencies like the Department of Corrections (i.e. Probation and Parole), Department of Family Services, the Juvenile Detention Center, and Drug Treatment Court. I will maintain positive relationships with the Great Falls Police Department and Montana Highway Patrol so we may all benefit from one another’s unique skill set, training and knowledge.

Q: How do you think the CCSO can improve community relations? In your opinion, how can the community help law enforcement keep the peace, (i.e. neighborhood watch, calling in tips vs. vigilante justice)?

A: As sheriff I will work to improve community relationships by refocusing the team on the mission statement. We will put the community first in all decisions and be accessible and accountable to Cascade County citizens. 

The sheriff needs to be accessible to the community. In this day, social media is often used for this type of communication however, not all residents have access to this platform. The sheriff must understand this and go to the citizens. Once elected I will continue to interact with Cascade County residents and business owners during both spontaneous and planned meetings.   

Citizens will be encouraged to share their ideas and needs of the office. I will invite the community to be part of the office with the county’s first citizens academy, a citizen advisory board and a volunteer program.

I am not a supporter of vigilante justice and I intend to regain the trust of the community so they feel supported when calling for law enforcement services or with information about a crime. The Office will lend immense support to promoting Great Falls/Cascade County Crimestoppers and their new digital app P3 Tips. 

Q: Since a major responsibility of the sheriff is the budget, how will you be a good steward of the taxpayer’s money?

A: My priority will always be public, inmate and employee safety. If the cost does not support the safety and security of the community and staff members of the CCSO it won’t be considered.

It is widely known the Sheriff’s Office is understaffed, both on the streets and in the detention center. As a fiscally responsible leader, I will work quickly to organize the office before making any significant financial commitments. I believe it is the responsibility of an elected official to get the most out of existing resources before asking for more.

Q: What do you believe is the appropriate staffing level of the CCSO to meet the needs of Cascade County? What resources would you need to make changes?

A: One deputy per 1,000 citizens is an ideal ratio for a prompt law enforcement response. Right now, the office is supplying one deputy for approximately 2,000 citizens. The low staffing level combined with the vast geography of the county is creating exceptionally slow response times. I will work with the taxpayers and the commissioners to slowly increase staffing levels. In the interim, I will take a close look at redistributing the current team so we can maximize coverage and provide better service. 

I will bolster the floundering reserve deputy program and start the county’s first volunteer program to offset some financial burdens. 

Q: How should the CCSO work with other agencies such as the Great Falls Police Department?

A: The CCSO should be involved in any safety issues relating to Cascade County.  If there is a task force dedicated to an issue, the CCSO should participate. The Great Falls Police Department and the CCSO should keep open communication and work together. Should a citizen in the city request a deputy, the CCSO will respond. The GFPD and the CCSO have different traditions and should each continue to honor those traditions, the differences complement each other. However, they should also partner when it is best for the community or deputy/officer.

Q: How do you think CCSO can address mental health issues related to crime and those in the criminal justice system?

A: Someone dealing with a mental illness is most commonly not a criminal justice issue. Mental health issues may appear to be related to drug addiction, however, with training one can decipher the difference. I will partner with private and public agencies to educate the CCSO staff so they may more effectively serve our community members who suffer from a mental illness. 

Should a person suffering from mental illness commit a crime which warrants incarceration all attempts should be made to provide them with mental health counseling and their prescribed medication. Currently, individuals who take prescribed medications to aid with mental illness are not given their medications on a consistent basis, if at all. I will change this. It would be ideal for a family member to bring the inmate’s medication to the Detention Center then the nursing staff administer it appropriately.

There are many programs and grants available to provide education and funding for mental illness issues. I plan to create a case manager position. The case manager will become an expert on available programs and apply for educational opportunities and funding aid and grants.