Posted: Nov 1, 2013 8:27 PM by Judy Slate - MTN News
WEST YELLOWSTONE - New information on a story we have been following since early September, is now available. Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin gets specific about his concerns with the West Yellowstone Police Department.
In September, Gootkin began getting complaints from citizens and some West Yellowstone police officers about the way the department was handling certain situations. The Sheriff says he offered any help his office could give to correct the problems but, he says, there has been no change.
Sheriff Gootkin says, "I care about the citizens of West Yellowstone so I feel obliged to do something about it."
"I can't make them do anything, I won't make them do anything I can only offer assistance."
He says, "The entire time period was 44 hours that that officer that person was in crisis and that's what's unacceptable."
Gootkin is talking about an incident that involved a potentially suicidal person being taken into protective custody and on then transferred to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.
One West Yellowstone officer guarded the man for more than 30 hours - something the West Yellowstone attorney believes is acceptable.
West Yellowstone Attorney Jim McKenna says, "The bottom line is that the person that was in crisis was properly cared for. Their safety and rights were fully protected and the police were still able to maintain an appropriate presence here in West Yellowstone."
But Gootkin says, "Let's say the person falls asleep because he's working 44 hours, hurts himself or someone else."
Sheriff Gootkin says all the Police Chief has to do was ask for help.
"This is a perfect example - a phone call - and we would have had a deputy up there," he says.
Another time the Sheriff says a suicidal person was jailed and then released without a mental evaluation.
He also says the department has problems with training and his office is investigating the way certain criminal cases were handled. In the meantime, he says, he continues to hear complaints.
"So why continue to contact him? I can't answer that because they don't contact us I mean if they would contact us or the city manager of the chief then we would know why," McKenna says.
City leaders say they want to meet with the Sheriff again, which Gootkin is open to but, "If you don't realize or don't understand what you're doing affects public safety, then nothing is going to change," Gootkin said.