BOZEMAN, Mont. – Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said he is concerned that Bozeman’s strategy for getting residents to vote for a proposed $37 million Public Safety Center is deceiving.
Gootkin posted this message on the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page:
As the Chief Law Enforcement Executive of the County, your safety (including the city of Bozeman) is my main responsibility. Two years ago the elected leaders of the city and county, along with the Bozeman Police Chief, told you that if your Sheriff’s Office and Police Department separated it would negatively affect your safety (which it will). Now the city is telling you in order to “Keep Bozeman Safe” you must vote to physically separate our agencies and replace the Sheriff’s Office with the Bozeman Fire Department? I cannot in clear conscience sit back and allow this “marketing” and “messaging” to go on without giving you my professional opinion. Simply put, separating police officers, deputy sheriffs, detectives, and command staff, and replacing us with firefighters who have very different duties and responsibilities does not make you safer, it actually does the opposite! If the project passes I will do everything possible to mitigate the damage, however if it fails I will take a lead role in getting both sides to the table and do the right thing. You deserve that!
When asked what made Gootkin propelled to write the post, he said, “I talked to some people in the city and citizens, and there was a lot of confusion. They felt as if they had to vote for this in order to be safe in the city of Bozeman, and that is the message the city is sending.”
Gootkin said keeping the county and city police together is the safest option for the two different departments.
Gootkin did want to make it clear that he understands the city’s position and will work as hard as possible to keep the city and county as safe as possible if the levy is approved by voters.
“Everyone needs new facilities, so it is not me being mad at them. I am just concerned,” said Gootkin. “If you separate the Bozeman Police Department from the Sheriff, that does not make anyone safer. I don’t care if you add the fire department to the Public Safety Building with the Police Department. Police and Sheriff work together every day on the same cases. We deal with the same people, the same suspects, the same victims, the same people that are seriously mentally ill. The fire department doesn’t deal with those people.”
Gootkin said no matter the fate of the Bozeman Public Safety Center, his job is to keep people safe and he will do that no matter the outcome.