Ravalli Co. will continue to assist Stevensville during police shortage

Posted at 9:29 PM, Jun 17, 2018

HAMILTON – Ravalli County Sheriff’s deputies will continue to handle calls for service in Stevensville while the town copes with a manpower shortage in its police department — and both jurisdictions will continue to explore the idea of a more permanent arrangement.

The Stevensville Town Council wrestled with the current manpower shortage in the police department last week. Following a couple of resignations, Chief James Marble is the only regular uniformed officer on patrol and that’s renewed concerns among some council members, who are wondering if the county should contract at least some law enforcement services with the Sheriff’s Office.

Mayor Brandon Dewey led a delegation that opened discussions with Ravalli County Sheriff Steven Holton following the Town Council discussion.

"Certainly not the first time we’ve had these discussions over the past, probably, decade. What we did this time though is we kind of looked at it from a different angle and talked about what services they needed and what we can provide, instead of just attaching dollar figures and trying to work around that," Sheriff Holton said.

Sheriff Holton says the discussions reinforced that the Sheriff’s Department will continue to handle Stevensville’s calls while it works to re-organize the department.

"Sheriff’s deputies are answering all the calls for service. And then we’re keeping those cases. We’re not turning anything back, misdemeanors and felonies. And in fact, right now we’re working all the felony cases," Holton said.

But there’s no immediate resolution of the question of whether the town and the county will work out a longer term relationship.

Some Stevensville residents believe the town will "lose control" of its local law enforcement if the police department were closed, and have urged the council to work with Marble to solve the current problems.

For his part, Holton says the county is strapped for resources itself. But he’s willing to keep discussions open.

"I really don’t have a preference whether they have a full-time police department or they contract with us. We can make it work. But in the end what we want is good public safety and consistent public safety all through the county, whether it’s outside the city limits or in the town," Holton said.

Town Council members have said regardless of what ultimately happens with enforcing laws, they would plan to keep a school resource officer on staff.

RELATED: Stevensville school resource officer resigns after sheriff’s investigation