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Bob Parcell

Robert E. "Bob" Parcell has jumped out of airplanes to fight wildland fires, commanded Iraqi police forces in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, and hunted ultra-rare seashells at depths of 200 feet off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.

He's also served as a deputy with the Missoula County Sheriff's Office since 1982 - during which time he was shot in the line of duty - and hopes to become boss of the law enforcement agency in November.

Parcell is the county's resident deputy in the Seeley-Swan area, and has held numerous duties at the sheriff's office, including detective and Smokejumper Liaison Officer.

"I've always had an affinity for law enforcement, and I would like to put my expertise, training and education to work to bring the office of the Missoula County sheriff into the 21st century," he said. "I'm not running against anyone, I'm running for this office."

A career Marine, Parcell served in combat in Iraq as director of the Iraqi Police Service, and inspected police stations during the Battle of Falujah, working to establish a sustainable police presence during and in the wake of combat.

He also spent eight years as a U.S Forest Service smokejumper, "jumping out of perfectly good airplanes on wings of nylon, and fighting fire throughout the entire West and Alaska," he said.

"As a member on these firefighting crews, and as a fire boss on fires, I learned valuable lessons about leadership and what it takes to inspire and motivate individuals who willingly go into harm's way," Parcell said.

Parcell says there's a host of in-house tasks he'd accomplish as sheriff, and that more funding, equipment and resources would be a boon to the department, which still hasn't recovered from the layoffs of 1986.

"But the tenor is set from the top down, and the leadership of this department is what I'm focused on," Parcell said. "I'd like to strengthen the relationship with the public with a lot more open communication."

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Living in the Seeley-Swan, Parcell said you only gain the trust of the community by interacting with its residents.

"If you're just driving around in uniform with the windows up and the AC on, you're just a piece of gear to them," he said. "If you stop and get to know them, they'll call you up directly."

Parcell said it's rare that a law enforcement agency solves a crime without the help of the public, which serves a vital role in the fight against crime.

"We almost always have information from the public. They do the legwork, and we just put it together. I want the trust and confidence of the public," he said.

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As a Marine in Iraq, where hostile insurgents might appear harmless in civilian clothes, and as a deputy in a far-flung corner of Missoula County, Parcell's trust in the public has been shaken again and again.

One night in 1992, while investigating a fairly routine assault with a knife, Parcell was shot in the chest. The bullet struck his badge and caught the outside edge of his body armor, but the impact blew out tissue and a chunk of pectoral muscle.

"This was right about the time of Waco and Ruby Ridge, so no one was real eager to go storming into this guy's house," Parcell said. "He hid out for about three years before he was arrested."

Still, Parcell never lost faith in the important role that community plays in law enforcement.

"Solving crime and protecting the public is the goal of law enforcement, not just taking reports. Most crimes are solved due to the input and assistance supplied by the public; only a small percentage of crimes are solved by law enforcement personnel acting alone. Due to this fact, we will make it a priority to better gain the public trust and capitalize on our partnership with the public."

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at 523-5264 or at tscott@missoulian.com.

 

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