KULR8: Local law enforcement says fentanyl containment, recruiting are crucial right now
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Local law enforcement officials said fentanyl, recruiting and funding are what they need those most support with at a roundtable hosted by U.S. Senator Jon Tester on Friday in Bozeman.
Tester held the roundtable to hear feedback from law enforcement and talk about his cosponsoring of the Recruit and Retain Act, which is meant to help local law enforcers throughout the country recruit younger staff.
Fentanyl was one of the most important topics for all officials who attended. Since 2019, fentanyl seizures have increased 11,000% across the state, according to Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
Belgrade Police Chief Dustin Lensing said officers are seizing 200 – 400 pills and administering Narcan for overdoses at least once per month. Sheriffs and police chiefs said they need more help to contain the growing numbers of fentanyl in the state.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton asked Sen. Tester whether the cartels funneling fentanyl into Montana can be declared terrorist organizations, to open more resources at the federal level to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the response is when I make that recommendation and to see what further resources that could bring to stopping what the cartels are doing here in the United States,” Tester said.
Tester said that is something he plans to look into and push for, although it is unclear at this time who would make that declaration, he said.
Law enforcement leadership also said recruitment is becoming an issue as cities and populations grow throughout the state.
There general idea is that there should be one officer for everyone 10,000 people, but that is not realistic, said Bozeman Police Chief Jim Veltkamp. Often, officers respond to call after call responding to crimes, instead of being able to patrol and prevent crime, he said.
Sheriff Dutton said detention centers in Lewis and Clark County are also short on staff.
Tester said his goal is to open another training academy for police officers in Montana, besides the one in Helena. There are a lot of factors, like funding and staffing, that could make that a slow process, but it is something he is looking into.
“We need to get them properly trained and get them available and hopefully we can meet the needs from a manpower standpoint. But like I said, there’s many different facets to that, from budgets, to housing, safety, a number of things,” he said.
The general consensus among all law enforcement officials was that they need more funding and consistent funding with less red tape at the federal to be able to continue doing their jobs effectively in their growing communities.