Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula Police Department on Wednesday touched on some of its likely requests as the city begins its annual budgeting process, which is expected to run throughout the summer.

Chief Mike Colyer said the department has made progress in completing a number of past initiatives laid out by former Chief Jaeson White. That includes the completion of new police training procedures and the expansion of the Crisis Intervention Team.

But like the Mobile Support Team at the Missoula Fire Department, the city propped up the Crisis Intervention Team using one-time federal funding related to the pandemic. That money has since run out and the police department will likely ask the city to fund a portion of the program.

“We’ve exhausted all the money through ARPA and absorbed some of the funding for the program manager’s position,” said Colyer. “Moving forward, we’re going to ask that to be a budgeted line item.”

Recently, Missoula voters also approved a safety levy for the Elementary District at Missoula County Public Schools. However, voters shot down a safety levy for the High School District.

But Colyer said MCPS is still looking to hire one additional school resource officer, which could fall upon the city to partially fund.

“They still would like to move forward with adding one new SRO. The ask that falls to the city is to pick up the balance for funding the SRO when they’re not in the schools,” Colyer said. “We’ll apply for a grant to cover that. But if the grant is not approved, then the ask would be if the city is willing to make up the balance for that position.”

Also like the fire department, the bulk of the police department’s budget goes to personnel. Colyer placed it at 93% of the departments total budget, or around $21.4 million. Around 3%, or $655,000, goes toward supplies ranging from protective vests to fuel. The remaining 4% goes toward other costs including strangulation and sex assault exams, and blood draws during certain DUI arrests.

Last year, Colyer said the department negotiated a new contract with the police union resulting in a 10% increase in wages. However, the wage increase wasn’t introduced to the department’s overtime budget, and it’s now looking to fill the gap.

“What complicated that is us being down resources. We’re oftentimes required to hire back officers on overtime to meet minimum staffing requirements required by policy,” Colyer said. “The combination has put us over in overtime. My ask will be an increase in the overtime budget to get us back flush with the higher wages and not have to backfill as many short shifts.”

Colyer said the department will also seek funding to support its agreement with the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office to help cover the sex offender registration agreement at the jail.

While the sheriff’s department took the program over in 2018, the city still contributes to the cost.

“As we all know, everyone’s wages have gone up, including those at the sheriff’s department,” Colyer said. “As those wages and benefits have gone up, they’re now asking us to increase our contribution to help pay for that.”

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Gallery Credit: Elisa Fernández-Arias

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