Flathead County Sheriff primary: Calvin Beringer

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Calvin Beringer

Editor’s note: Four candidates are running in the Republican primary for Flathead County Sheriff. The primary is June 5. Absentee ballots have been mailed. Here’s a look at the candidates and their views. No Democrats filed for the post.

Calvin Beringer points to his wealth of experience in law enforcement both here and in King County, Washington, which is also home to the city of Seattle.

“I have over 32 years of law enforcement and military experience,” Beringer said in an interview last week.

The 61-year-old spent three years as an Army military policeman and several years as a deputy for the Flathead County Sheriff’s office, including patrolling the Canyon. He then left for Washington state, where he managed a tire store, a security company and a private investigations group. In 1991, he went to the King County Sheriff Department and, for 10 years, held various positions including patrol deputy, master police officer, community policing team and numerous supervisory positions as a sergeant.

He returned to the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department and worked there from 2012 to 2015 as patrol commander and, for a short time, managed the county’s 911 center. He said he left because of management philosophy differences with Sheriff Chuck Curry.

He said he favored the idea of “storefronts” in places like the Canyon, which would be housed by volunteers or a staffer that, at least initially, would not be armed. The office would be a liaison between department and the community. Other outlying areas like Marion or Olney could also be served by storefronts, he said, which would be less expensive than a full deputy presence.

He said a drug court would be a viable option over immediately incarcerating drug offenses. Having said that, he didn’t think the county needed a new jail right now.

He said he wanted to see more data before he endorsed a new jail, though if one is needed, he suggested the county might want to consider contracting with other entities for services and if it does expand, to build a justice center. It’s a concept he worked on in King County, where the Sheriff Department there contracted its services for a nearby communities for law enforcement.

The same could be done here, he claimed. For example, if Bigfork continued to grow and became incorporated, it could contract with the county for police, rather than form its own police department.

He said he agreed with other candidates that the county needs more school resource officers — those positions can often be funded with grants, at least at the onset.

He said he wanted to get away from “old school” policing and expand the current Sheriff’s academy to include more youth.

On the 911 center and the problems of some areas having no or poor radio transmission, he said the system needed to be upgraded.

“We need to find the money somewhere,” he said.

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