The Cascade County Commission approved a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to put a resident Sheriff’s deputy in Belt. The program has been a promise of Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter since he ran for office.
Back in 2018, commissioners approved a two-year contract agreement with the Sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement services to the Belt community for about 20 hours per week. That contract ended on June 30. Under the new resident deputy program, the resident deputy will work full-time and live in Belt, as soon as the Belt City Council can provide them a residence.
The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office already has two resident deputies — one in Sun River Valley and the other in Black Eagle. The community of Cascade still has no resident deputy. The MOU for a resident deputy in Belt has been in the works ever since the Belt City Council passed a measure approving a resident deputy earlier this year.
Slaughter said he’s pushed for the program not because he’s concerned about crime in Belt, but to create a greater sense of community with law enforcement.
“It’s about getting to know your community, and understanding how the community of Belt works,” he said. “Because it works differently than the communities in the Valley and Black Eagle and Cascade.”
It was a tight budget that originally put Belt in a bind — with the rising cost of law enforcement, Belt Mayor Jim Olson said they were no longer able to sustain a town marshal or a local police force, so working with the county became a necessity. But Belt is a small town of about 600 people, and with small towns come special needs.
“One of the things about small town law enforcement is you want to be able to call somebody, or know somebody,” Olson said. “If it’s your neighbor and your friends, it’s really easy to have that rapport, and that’s what we don’t have.”
For Bill Nebel, owner of the coffee shop Jack’s Beans in Belt, the news brings relief.
“It’ll be really nice having them in town, compared to having to call to Great Falls and have someone sent out,” he said.
The resident deputy will work for six months, until the Belt City Council can find them a house. After that, the deputy’s term will last through 2029.