ABC Fox Montana: Bozeman Police to see patrol officer increase

by Alex McCollum

Soon the City of Bozeman will see a few more police officers patrolling the streets thanks to the 2024 city budget. 

The Bozeman City Commission voted in favor of adopting the budget at their Tuesday night meeting, which creates five new jobs at the Bozeman Police Department, made an electronic forensics position full time and created a second internship through MSU. 

Police Chief Jim Veltkamp said the department has been short-staffed in patrol officers for a while. 

Since 2010, the patrol force has increased by two officers. Meanwhile Bozeman’s population has grown from 37,280 to roughly 56,123 in that same time. 

Officers are spread thin, Veltkamp said. This means their response times are longer, they have to prioritize the most urgent calls first and they are unable to follow up on every call and work more on previous cases. 

“I hope that these four additional patrol officers will help just alleviate a little bit of the singular response to calls, allow a little bit more bandwidth for vacation time and a little bit more time to be able to respond to calls,” Veltkamp said. 

Four more officers and a lieutenant will not necessarily mean every problem is fixed though. 

“But to get back to where we should be with the population growth, we really need a significant number of officers,” he said. 

The department is appreciative they were authorized to add these positions, he said. 

Police department salaries and benefits make up around $12 million in the budget, according to the recommended budget. 

Staffing and recruiting have been ongoing issues for law enforcement agencies in Montana. In March, U.S. Senator Jon Tester hosted a law enforcement roundtable, where many police chiefs and sheriffs explained they need bigger staffs to keep up with growing populations and the growing fentanyl epidemic.