AP NEWS

Montana chief questions board’s role in officer discipline

May 24, 2019

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Leaders of some law enforcement agencies in Montana have expressed frustration that the quasi-judicial board that sets officer employment and training standards is undermining the authority of agencies to discipline their own officers.

The Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council, also known as POST, says it is willing to consider disciplinary recommendations from law enforcement agencies, but it won’t be bound by them in determining whether an officer’s certifications should be suspended, revoked or put on probation.

The council’s proposed “allegation policy” and updates to its grounds for sanctions will be considered during a meeting next Wednesday in Helena.

The Billings Gazette reports Billings Police Chief Rich St. John and other officers urged the POST Council to support the disciplinary decisions made by local law enforcement agencies, saying they are in a better place to determine appropriate sanctions.

St. John wrote to the council in early April complaining that POST revoked the certification of a Billings officer “who was most definitely salvageable,” had gotten into treatment and was rebuilding his career.

“The decision created the perception that POST inserted itself into our disciplinary procedure,” St. John wrote.

Jerry Williams, the Montana Police Protective Association’s executive director, said he felt the 13-member council consistently “undermines the authority” of law enforcement administrators who have already taken disciplinary action, the Gazette reported.

POST Director Perry Johnson said the council is required to make decisions based on whether the officer meets the standards to remain certified.

“We only apply a sanction to a certificate,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We’re not disciplining an officer; we don’t have that relationship with them.”

POST’s proposed “allegation policy” says law enforcement agencies are required to report any violations of any grounds for denial, sanction, suspension or revocation of the certification of a public safety officer. The grounds include willful falsification of information, a pattern of lying or dishonesty, substance abuse, a felony conviction, conviction of any offense involving illegal sexual conduct or violence or conduct that is contrary to honesty, integrity, justice or morality.

The allegation policy also clarifies that POST will not investigate or sanction actions that do not include an ethical violation or a failure to meet the minimum standards for appointment or certification.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

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