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New police department approved in southeast Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A proposal to create a police department in southeast Montana was approved amid crime prevention efforts, city officials said.

Hardin City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday to form a city police department housed in a building neighboring city hall, the Billings Gazette reported. The building currently houses the city court and animal control.

The city currently pays the sheriff’s office $490,000 to provide law enforcement, and those funds would be appropriated to the newly proposed police department, which is estimated to cost $520,000 the first year and $540,000 the second year, Mayor Joe Purcell said.

Purcell expects to put together a police commission comprised of three volunteers to choose the first police chief.

There should be at least two police officers on duty at a time, mentioning concerns about petty crime and drug-related issues in the town, city council member Harry Kautzman said.

Hardin previously attempted to form a police department in 2009 with a group called the American Police Force, which turned out to be run by a convicted felon and con man.

City officials ensured checks and balances this year with the commission and a council-set spending limit.

Karen Molina, the only council member who voted against the police force, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Big Horn County sheriff’s office did not return a call for comment. It is unclear what impact the new force will have on the sheriff’s office.

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Abigail Tweedy

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