By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

City Votes to Move Jurisdiction Ordinance Forward

Second Reading Set for Feb. 4 City Council Meeting


January 30, 2019

In an unanimous decision, the Glasgow City Council voted to advance Ordinance No. 960 to extend the Glasgow Police Department’s arrest authority out five miles from the city limits at their regular meeting on Jan. 22.

During the meeting, Chief Brien Gault presented the Council with a powerpoint presentation highlighting the needs the ordinance would address, such as officer and city liability and the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority’s ability to pay out those liability claims. That presentation also addressed concerns that any arrest not made with the legal authority to do so are unlawful. Gault highlighted residential and high-traffic areas around the city that pose a risk to the department’s abilities to enforce the law.

The Chief clarified that the ordinance would only apply to arrestable offenses and would not be used for traffic enforcement. He stressed this ordinance was needed to clarify boundaries and to facilitate both GPD and Valley County dispatchers’ ability to perform their tasks, especially in areas close to city limits. The areas highlighted were, “Highland Drive, Scottie Pride Drive, Airport Road, Valley County Fairgrounds, US Hwy 2 West to the local Golf Course and bowling alley and U.S. Highway 2 East to local businesses that directly service the community.”

The presentation also stated that the ordinance was not intended to be any of the following: “Not a request to generate responsibility for patrolling additional county jurisdiction. Not a donut law to enforce city ordinances outside the city limits. Not an effort to take over county investigations. Not giving away city services. Not about stretching resources of the GPD. Not about justification to add more officers. Not just a simple fix to the world’s problems.”

Despite assurances, there is nothing statutorily preventing the Glasgow Police Department from patrolling or enforcing arrestable offenses or conducting investigations within that five mile extension. There is also no statutory body or elected official in direct control of the GPD that would answer to the people living within those areas, such as the Mayor or Sheriff who are both elected by constituents.

Sheriff Tom Boyer supported the measure as Chief Gault briefed the council on mutual aid, cross-deputization and hot pursuit. Gault then brought to light one example involving a hot pursuit through the city that ended outside city limits and required GPD, the Sheriff’s Office and Montana Highway Patrol to end it.

Boyer addressed this scenario stating, “[the pursuit] is a good example of a high-intensity situation where no one had time to make a call, and I like that [GPD officers] were out there.” Boyer went on to discuss how the city ordinance would relieve the county of liability in the event the officers act in a situation where they are held liable for their actions, which he viewed as a positive for his department.

Boyer was asked by Mayor Becky Erickson to discuss concerns addressed by County Attorney Dylan Jensen but he refused to do so. He also refused to address past contention saying to the council, “Why is there such contention [on this ordinance]? It goes back to a contentious history between the county and the city and instead of addressing that directly I’d like to look to the future.”

Dylan Jensen’s concerns were addressed in an article published on the front of the Jan. 16 issue of The Glasgow Courier in which he felt the liability argument was disingenuous as mutual aid support would fall under the county’s liability and that the need to act outside the city limits was not a valid justification to expand the established jurisdiction. Jensen did not attend the meeting on Jan. 22.

The Mayor capped off the discussion with the Sheriff saying, “I think it’s wonderful that the new leadership, Brien and Tom, are working so well together.” She would later invite Sheriff Boyer to continue coming to the city’s meetings.

With support from Sheriff Boyer and no public descent present at the meeting, the council appeared unconcerned by any public hesitation to the ordinance. Councilman Stan Ozark addressed earlier concerns he had highlighted when Jensen and retired Sheriff Vernon Buerkle had opposed the ordinance citing investigative concerns and potential harm to the agencies working relationship. Ozark expressed a relief that Boyer was in support of the ordinance and he had decided to support it.

The ordinance will be heard at a second reading at the Feb. 4, city council meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center. The public will still be able to address concerns and comment on the ordinance before and during that meeting. If the second reading is approved the ordinance will be enacted into law after 30 days from the vote on Feb. 4.


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