Shirley Faust, clerk of Missoula County District Court, pulled down a century-old record book from the shelves and flipped to the first page before turning it to face the crowd of teenagers in front of her.

Students from Sentinel High School visited the Missoula County Courthouse on Tuesday, meeting elected officials like Faust and Justice of the Peace Landee Holloway, and learning how different agencies function.

The book Faust held detailed payments made to people who served on juries, with the first entry dating back to 1896.

“Back then, jurors were paid $3 per day. Now, it’s $12 per day,” Faust said. “What I’m telling you is that we have not kept up.”

Beyond criminal cases, Faust talked to the special education students about all of the other records and court paperwork that come through her office, including lawsuits, marriages and divorces.

“Our records start back in 1865. It was actually before Montana even became a state,” Faust said. “We have the first criminal case. We have the first divorce case, the first adoption case.”

A stop through the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office showed the holding cell and interview rooms, and provided an opportunity for some of the Sentinel students to use the fingerprint machine.

Many of the students were keen to know how they could get involved in Missoula law enforcement. Detective Rebecca Birket, who recently was appointed to a newly created school resource officer position, said the sheriff’s office operates a cadet program for high school students, and that once they graduate they could apply to become reserve deputies.

All of the students left with a plastic badge declaring them a junior deputy, and pinned them onto their shirts as they made their way down to the elections office, where elections supervisor Bradley Seaman told the juniors and seniors about voting.

“This is the place where you get to register and use your voice to help pick elected representatives,” he said.

In the basement of the courthouse, one of the group’s final stops was the 911 dispatch center, where manager Sherri Odlin showed them the employees who staff the phone lines at all times. Seated in front of six computer monitors, the dispatchers are able to quickly send out officers, firefighters or medical personnel to any issue in the county.

Each day, between 300 and 400 calls come into 911, Odlin said.

One of the Sentinel students asked what qualities or types of people tend to be good at being a 911 dispatcher.

“Waitresses, we’ve found, are really good. They are good at handling a lot of different things at once,” Odlin said.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.