Police Department Faces Staff Shortage
Tribes, Sheriffs Office To Help Out
With the Wolf Point Police Department short-handed, the Roosevelt County Sheriffs Office and Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice are stepping up to make sure that Wolf Point is receiving adequate law enforcement coverage.
Wolf Point Mayor Chris Dschaak said that Wolf Point is down to only two city officers during a meeting held at City Hall on Thursday, Dec. 28. In attendance at the meeting were representatives of the RCSO, FPTDLJ, Montana Highway Patrol and Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board.
“We had a mass exodus,” Dschaak said. “We’re here begging and pleading for assistance from you.”
Wolf Point Police Chief Alisha Morales and officer Enrique Morales said they will each work 12hour shifts during the challenging times.
“We’re going to run it until the wheels run off,” Chief Morales said.
Sheriff Jason Frederick said his office will work its regular schedule with an officer detailed to Wolf Point. He urged the Wolf Point police officers to go home and get some rest while the deputies are on duty in Wolf Point.
Ken Trottier for FPTDLJ offered assistance as well.
“We will split up,” he said. Chief Morales estimates that the police department handles about 600 calls a month. During daytime hours, the majority of the cases are for panhandling, loitering and public intoxication.
“For every resident of the city, I thank you for helping out,” Dschaak said to law enforcement officials.
Frederick said staff shortages is a problem for law enforcement in many locations.
“We used to have 15-plus applicants, now it’s two or three,” the sheriff said. He added that Cascade County is currently down 12 deputies.
The mayor then took the opportunity to discuss thoughts of how to decrease criminal activity in the area.
“We aren’t making any headways,” Dschaak said. Chief Morales urged residents not to give money to panhandlers. She said the panhandlers take the $3, buy alcohol and then police or ambulance services are needed to assist with a problem. She said at times she feels like a badged babysitter for intoxicated people.
Frederick added that panhandlers can’t be ignored anymore because they are becoming more physical toward others.
Fort Peck TEB member Bryce Kirk urged that the agencies work together to battle criminal activity.
“We have to get out of being territorial,” Kirk said. Dschaak agreed that parties need to be united.
“This is our community. We have to fix our community,” the mayor said.
The mayor noted that it’s not only law enforcement that needs to join the battle. Citizens must notify officials when crimes are taking place. Also needed are parents admitting and accepting help when their children have abuse problems.
“It’s not a law enforcement problem, it’s a community problem,” Frederick added.
The lack of mental health resources was also discussed as a major challenge. Kirk mentioned that opioid settlement funds are available and agencies should agree where the money should be invested.
A deputy mentioned how too many residents hinder, rather than help, when suspects are trying to be located.
“It falls back on the community,” he said.
Dschaak said there are good people in the community, but they are getting outnumbered and they also might be afraid to come forward.
Dschaak said improved mental health services and getting the schools involved are important elements to decreasing substance abuse. Officials agree though that family life play a huge role, and that increased crime is a community problem.
“Something has to happen,” Dschaak said. “If it doesn’t, Wolf Point won’t be around for too much longer.”