Misunderstanding or misrepresentation?

Sheriff unhappy with how police chief portrayed the K9 program
Thursday, April 21, 2022
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While the Columbus Police Department has been impressively successful in raising donations and grants to secure approximately $85,000 in funding — and City Council approval — to launch a K9 program,  not everyone is pleased.

 

AN UNHAPPY SHERIFF

Stillwater County Sheriff Chip Kem is not happy about how Columbus Police Chief Gary Timm portrayed the sheriff’s office K9 team and its willingness to help the city.

Kem also has heartburn over the fact that on a state grant application form that asked if there was another non-marijuana K9 available in the county, Timm answered no.

That issue surfaced at the April 7 Columbus City Council meeting when Councilman Bob Fitzgerald questioned Timm about it.

“Did you do that? Did you answer no?” Fitzgerald asked at that meeting.

Timm responded that he had marked no on the application because at that time, he didn’t know that the sheriff’s office was getting a non-marijuana K9.

At the time Timm filled out that application, the sheriff’s office new K9 had been in place for nine months and had worked one city case, according to Sheriff Kem and K9 Deputy Cactus Anderson.

Sheriff Kem said he is “confused on where the confusion comes from.”

Also unhappy with how Timm represented him to the city council is Deputy Anderson, who told the News that he and Timm had several conversations about K9s and that Timm apparently misunderstood some of those conversations.

Perhaps most importantly, Deputy Anderson said he is bothered that Timm told the city council that Deputy Anderson was busy with his own work, training, coaching and time-off to be able to provide much assistance to the city.

Deputy Anderson told the News that he has — and will continue — to give CPD as much help as possible.

“I will always respond to a team member,” said Deputy Anderson, referring to Columbus police.

In 2021, the deputy and his K9 were deployed a total of 15 times to five different agencies.

When contacted by the News this week, Timm said he had no idea that Sheriff Kem and Deputy Anderson were unhappy.

“No one ever said a thing,” said Timm.

Regarding him answering “no” to the question of there being other K9s in Stillwater County on the grant application, Timm said this week that he simply did not know the sheriff’s office had obtained and was using a new K9.

“I think there is some misunderstanding or miscommunication or something,” said Timm.

POLICE COMMISSION LETTER

Also taking issue with the answer on that grant application was Police Commission member Bob Kem, who submitted a letter to the council and Timm prior to the April 4 meeting.

In that letter, Kem expressed his belief that the purchase of a K9 was not warranted due to the fact that the county has one. He also said money needed to be spent on good patrol vehicles first. Kem also urged the council to look at the grant application regarding Timm’s answer to the question of there being other non-marijuana K9s in the county.

Since 2018, the sheriff’s office has investigated 105 drug cases that led to felony charges in district court, according to District Court records.

During approximately the last 3 years, CPD has made at least 18 felony drug arrests that resulted in cases being filed in district court. At least six of those have involved methamphetamine.

COLUMBUS PD K9 PROGRAM TIMELINE

SEPTEMBER 7, 2021

Columbus Police Chief Gary Timm gets council approval to apply for a Montana Department of Justice Grant for $10,000 that would help start fund a K9 program. In a press release that Timm provided to the council, Attorney General Austin Knudsen said it costs approximately $20,000 to purchase a K9 and train it and its handler.

The press release also states that the grant program aims to help law enforcement agencies “purchase and train new drug-detecting K9s to replace those that were trained to detect marijuana after voters last year passed an initiative legalizing the drug.” The deadline to apply for the grant was Sept, 15, 2021.

OCTOBER 7, 2021

Timm announces to the council that CPD is one of 18 agencies to be awarded to $10,000 grant. (An additional $10,000 was later awarded by the state.)

At this point, the grant required the recipients to secure enough funding for the dog itself, other grants and funding, and have a use policy written and in place before receiving final approval.

APRIL 4, 2022

Timm announces that he has raised more than $83,000 for the K9 program, which would fund the program for at least four years. A handful of large corporate donations from Sibanye-Stillwater and Scheels helped raise that amount. The council approved the program, but not before engaging Timm in some serious and heated questions.

Among those was how he filled out the grant application regarding if there was a drug dog in Stillwater County. Councilman Bob Fitzgerald asked Timm about a specific portion of the grant application in which the applicant was asked if there was a non-marijuana certified law enforcement K9 in the same county and if Timm had answered no to that question.

Timm admitted that he had answered no, but said that he had been unaware that the sheriff’s office was getting a new non-marijuana certified K9.

A non-marijuana certified K9 has been at the sheriff’s office since January 2021 — 9 months prior to Timm filling out that grant application.

During council meetings regarding the K9 program, Timm had told the council that Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Cactus Anderson and his K-9 were both not very busy and busy and perhaps too busy to be of help to the city.