HELENA – Montana is a large, rural state and few understand that as well as law enforcement. Sheriff deputies and the Montana Highway Patrol often have to monitor hundreds of miles of Montana virtually alone.
During a medical emergency, vehicle pursuits, or shootings, the trooper or deputy will often need to make split-second decisions to resolve a situation. Law enforcement say that in crisis situations, the nearest assistance can sometimes be up to an hour away.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said his deputies undergo more than 30 weeks of training, but sometimes deputies have to trust their intuition, common sense, and understanding of the situation.
“Those are the thing we look for [in our deputies] because when it’s two o’clock in the morning on the street, you don’t have time to call a sergeant or ask advice,” said Dutton. “Sometimes, when backup is 45 minutes away, the decision is now.”
Following the death of Broadwater County Deputy Mason Moore, many law enforcement agencies have reviewed the way they interact with suspects when backup isn’t available.
Dutton said he knows that if the situation means life or death for a person, Montana law enforcement will always put the safety of the person above their own. Dutton added that he’s very thankful for the communities like Augusta, Lincoln, and other rural areas that have been looking out for law enforcement.
“There are people in those communities we know we can depend on,” said Dutton, “And for that we are all incredibly grateful.”