Law enforcement leaders strive to be transparent, accessible and accountable

| July 3, 2020 3:44 PM

As a nation, state and society we are living in unprecedented times. As peace officer leaders in the state of Montana, we feel it is our obligation to speak about the unnecessary injuries and deaths, suffered by any persons, at the hands of law enforcement officers who fail or refuse to live by our peace officer code of ethics. We collectively acknowledge that incidents of excessive use of force, violence and misconduct are unacceptable and contradictory to our professional training, ethics, and personal morals.

In every community of Montana, peace officers work to protect public safety. We are your police officers, sheriff deputies, troopers, corrections officers, game wardens, motor carrier officers, and more. Every day, we put our lives on the line so you can live, work, travel, and recreate safely. In striving to fulfill our oaths and follow our code of ethics, Montana’s peace officers have earned the respect and trust of the citizens we serve.

Montana’s peace officers receive top-notch training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy and in the field. Among other things, we are taught how to de-escalate tense situations, how to uphold citizens’ rights while protecting public safety, how to respect people of all backgrounds and circumstances in the course of our work, and how to use force only as a last resort. We measure the effectiveness of that training by the record of our officers. Our record is strong.

Montanans expect the highest standards of conduct from their peace officers. You rightly expect appropriate disciplinary and legal action is taken when an officer is found to have violated the oath, the code of ethics, or the laws governing our state and nation. We are committed to this.

As leaders of law enforcement agencies, we strive to be transparent, accessible, and accountable. We continually evaluate policies and practices to ensure they meet the needs of our communities. To that end, we welcome and encourage input from our fellow citizens and our elected officials. Positive, civil, and constructive engagement is the path to genuine community-oriented law enforcement that protects public safety and the rights of all citizens.

We are members of the communities we serve. We want to thank the citizens who have shown support for Montana peace officers. We are lucky to live and work in a state that overwhelmingly supports us. As Montanans, let’s continue working together and recommit ourselves to the shared values that make our home the last best place.

This letter was signed by 61 individual peace officer leaders and four law enforcement associations in Montana, including Lake County Sheriff Don Bell, Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino and Polson Police Chief Wade Nash.