Here is the text of an email which all five members of the Great Falls City Commission received on Monday, demanding we defund the Great Falls Polices Department. This is apparently a form email because I received it from four different individuals.
I read it with a mixture of disbelief and, I admit, a little bit of anger. I have included my response here as well.
“Dear Great Falls City Commissioners,
I am writing to demand that the City Commission adopts a budget that prioritizes community well-being and redirects funding away from the police.
Many Montanans may be tempted to think the unique nature of such a vast, yet sparsely-populated state minimizes the likelihood of police brutality in our small city communities. However, as reported by the Billings Gazette last year, Montana ranked ninth in killings by police per capita. In 2017, the Great Falls Tribune reported Montana police killings reached a total higher than the previous six years. These figures are alarming, but don’t tell the full story. Under Montana Code § 2-6-102 and Article II, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution, police disciplinary records are exempt from disclosure if there is an “individual privacy interest that clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.” Montana police forces operate within a culture of impunity, and as the members of the communities they are supposed to be protecting, we can’t even begin to grasp the scope of their violence.
We are in the midst of widespread upheaval over the systemic violence of policing. Empty gestures and suggestions of “reform” are inadequate and unacceptable. I am demanding that real change be made to the way this city allocates its resources.
Support for communities in need is necessary now, more than ever. I am demanding that the City Commission meaningfully defund the Great Falls Police Department. I join the calls of those across the country to defund the police. I am demanding a budget that adequately and effectively meets the needs of at-risk Great Falls residents during this trying and uncertain time. I am demanding a budget that supports community wellbeing, rather than empowering the police forces that tear them apart.
As the City Commission, the budget proposal is in your hands. It is your duty to represent your constituents. I am urging you to completely revise the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and to fund the social programs proven to be more effective than policing at promoting community safety and equity. Have the courage to be a leader of the change this city, state, and country desperately needs.
Thank you for your time,”
I have received and read your form-letter email and I must say that I am offended. First, because it appears to me that you don’t actually live in Great Falls (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that), because if you did live here you wouldn’t make ignorant and idiotic statements which suggest our Great Falls Police Department “tears apart” our community or that “we can’t begin to grasp the scope of the violence” our officers are engaged in here. What rubbish!
Secondly, because you seem to think that you can lecture us and “demand” actions when you obviously have no idea what you’re even talking about when it comes to how Great Falls citizens regard our awesome local law enforcement community. We love, respect and appreciate the officers and employees at the GFPD and the Cascade County Sheriffs Office.
No institution is perfect but our community recognizes that the overwhelming majority of our local LE personnel do their jobs responsibly with dedication and fairness. And they do it every day, faithfully and with courage.
So, no I won’t be supporting any half-baked, knee jerk, ridiculous “demands” by you or anyone else to “defund” our police department here.
As a matter of fact I will be fully supporting our local LE enforcement and I will continue to advocate for more resources to help them do their job and keep our streets safe from criminals.
I hope that’s clear enough.
Commissioner Rick Tryon”