Sheriff Eades encouraged by direction of Montana law enforcement

Charlie Denison
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Fergus County Sheriff Troy Eades stand by the entrance to the jail Thursday afternoon.
Photo by Charlie Denison

Fresh off the Montana Sheriff and Peace Officers Association Convention in Helena, Fergus County Sheriff Troy Eades said he is encouraged with the direction of law enforcement in the state, but there is much to keep in mind, as change is imminent.

“We’ve seen some fairly significant changes in the legislature,” Eades said. “Many of these changes were jail reform bills.

Eades said his department is taking these changes in stride. It’s an adjustment, but one that can be done, as most changes deal with whom you can and cannot jail.

“Certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses are now considered non-jailable offenses. Some of these include disorderly conduct, first offense misdemeanor drug possession and others. We are still trying to come to terms with all we have to do different with this reform in place.”

A law enforcement officer for 22 years now, Eades has learned a lot about his profession, but this convention taught him quite a bit.

“It was a great convention,” he said. “We learned about emotional survival from a former cop turned psychologist named Kevin Gilmartin. He put on an all-day class about how to help officers and their families maintain or improve their lives both personally and professionally. He really helped me shape my perspective as I approach the end of my career.”

Asking questions like “what’s next?” and looking at how changing the approach to his job has been eye opening, Eades said.

“Quite honestly, this job has been my life,” Eades said. “The good and the bad. It’s not a job; it’s a calling. We do it because we believe in public service. We want to make a difference. We want to make our community a better, safer place to raise our families.”

Gilmartin’s words were especially helpful from an administrative standpoint, Eades said, as he shared some ways sheriffs can help improve the quality of life for their employees.

“I learned some new ways to look for struggles the staff might be having so we can help them out before any issues arise,” Eades said. “We especially don’t want this profession to affect anyone’s family life. It can be hard to not take this job home sometimes.”

Although the profession can have its troublesome times, Eades said those in law enforcement look after each other, and that is one of the best parts of the job.

“We are a family,” he said. “We are a family in this office and law enforcement worldwide is a family. We have an obligation to look out for each other and help where we can.”


Exploring Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law, a victim’s rights constitutional initiative passed last November, affects all law enforcement offices in the state, and it is the biggest change the Fergus County Sheriff’s department faces, Eades said.

“Marsy’s Law affects the entire criminal justice system,” Eades said, “as far as victim notifications, victim’s rights to be notified of hearings and any changes of a suspect’s status. For us, it’s a lot of work. We had to come up with a package to notify crime victims of their rights. We just had a meeting today with just about all of the law enforcement agencies: our office, the police department, Judith Basin County, Department of Livestock, the Department of Probation and Parole, Montana Highway Patrol, the Fergus County Attorney’s Office and the Saves advocates to try to get everyone in our jurisdiction on the same page as far as how we are going to comply to this new law. I feel proud of all the participants in the meeting. I think it was productive and think we came up with a good plan, which we will roll out on July 1.”

Eades said Lewistown Police Officer Levi Talkington was instrumental in putting a plan together. More details will emerge on the community approach to Marsy’s Law in a future News-Argus issue.


Showing support for the Montana Guardian Fund

At the convention, a need for law enforcement statewide was addressed.

“In Montana, we don’t have a fund for law enforcement officers killed or injured in the line of duty,” Eades said. “The Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association have been working on this idea to come up with a fund that will assist families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty.”

Known as the Montana Guardian Fund, Eades said this program would be able to assist the families as they grieve.

“We couldn’t support the family forever, but, if a law officer is killed or injured to the point they can’t come back to work, the surviving family member is going to be worried about how to pay the bills,” Eades said. “This fund is designed to give those families the initial help they need so the surviving spouse and children don’t have to worry for the two to three months they are trying to get their lives back on track.”

Ideally, Eades said he’d like to see 10 large-scale donors come forward in the community. Their names would then be listed on the charter for the Montana Guardian Fund.

“This is something we have to have,” Eades said. “We owe it to the men and women who make that ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us. It’s the least we can do for their families.”

If anyone has any questions regarding the Montana Guardian Fund, Eades encourages them to call him or Undersheriff Rick Vaughn at 535-3415. Vaughn is a Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association board member newly re-elected for another term.

“He attends board meetings regularly and is really key in giving small agency law enforcement a voice,” Eades said. “He does a good job for us.”











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