MISSOULA – Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says it’s been a privilege to work daily with the Montana Highway Patrol and watch as the troopers pull together and receive community support in the aftermath of the shooting of Trooper Wade Palmer.
While the Evaro shooting is the latest of several tragedies to befall MHP in recent years, he doesn’t believe the danger will dissuade qualified men and women from wanting to serve.
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The shooting of Trooper Palmer is the latest tragedy in a tough decade for the Montana Highway Patrol.
When Trooper David Graham was killed in a head-on crash near Kalispell in 2007, it had been nearly 30 years since a trooper was lost in the line of duty.
But that was quickly followed by the crash that killed Trooper Evan Schneider near Columbia Falls, and then Trooper Mike Haynes in another head-on with a drunk driver south of Kalispell.
Then, in 2010, Trooper David DeLaittre was shot and killed near Three Forks.
“I think anybody that’s considering to be a first responder — again whether it’s fire service, medical profession or law enforcement — have to understand that this is a tough job,” Fox said.
“And that there are some challenges. There are long hours, and you have to be willing to run to danger, as I said, and put sometimes your well-being behind those of the people you serve,” he added.
A total of eight MHP troopers have been killed in the history of the Patrol — all from accidents or shootings. Coupled with the deaths of several deputies, it would seem to be a job that’s becoming increasingly dangerous.
But Fox says it’s always been dangerous, and the tragedies don’t seem to have cut the number of people willing to serve.
“If you do the math comes out pretty close to one a year, on average. And there were actually more law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty at the turn of the last century really, then there are in this day and age,” Fox explained.
“But yet that doesn’t minimize the fact that these jobs have challenges, and there are risks. And we need to know and understand what those things are that we make sure that we have the right equipment, the right training, and that we do everything we can to keep our professionals safe. And we will continue to re-assess and do that,” he continued.
In fact, Fox believes the outpouring of support from the communities, and law enforcement in general, following a tragedy like the Evaro shooting underscores the honor that makes being a first responder such a profound career choice.
“That should be for any young person trying to decide what they want to do with their life to be very encouraging,” Fox told MTN News. “That they could be a part of a family and a profession that is so close-knit, and so important to our communities that this would perhaps be a calling that they would answer.”
MHP is currently recruiting for its next class of troopers, with applications due by April 4. Click here for more information.