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'A beautiful community': Montana's only Black police chief fitting in nicely in Hardin

George on his computer
Posted at 4:39 PM, Feb 22, 2024

HARDIN — Paul George became Hardin's chief of police in 2023 and has since fallen in love with the town.

“I’m loving Hardin. Hardin’s a beautiful community. Nice and small," George said on Thursday. "Close enough to Billings to where you can go out and do stuff, but far enough away where you’re not dealing with all the sirens and the craziness and drama that’s going on in Billings right now."

Paul George
Paul George

Every day is a busy day for George.

"A day in the life of the Hardin police chief... I review our officer's reports. I come in, I say, ‘Hey everybody.’ I come out and ride for a little bit and then I start fielding citizens, calls, complaints, whatever the case may be," George said. "Schedule is usually pretty booked up."

The 31-year-old stepped into the role last year.

"My passion right now is still being out in the field and being hands on and boots on the ground,” said George.

He’s currently the only supervisor the Hardin Police Department has.

Outside of the Hardin Police Department
Outside of the Hardin Police Department

"I’m community-oriented... I want my officers to be community-oriented. If anybody needs anything, sometimes I know I’m a little difficult to get a hold of. I am the only supervisor I currently have. So just make an appointment, give me a call, shoot me an email, come see me," George said. "Invite me over to come talk to you, have some coffee. But anything you need, feel free to reach out to me."

It’s a lot of work but a big accomplishment for George, who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands but grew up in southeastern Georgia.

“(I'm) originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Grew up in south Georgia, northeast Florida. A place called St. Marys, Georgia. And grew up there most of my life," George said. "I started off as a dispatcher and went from dispatching to the road. I love dispatching. I probably would go back to it."

Now he’s in Montana making waves.

“Once I got here I realized that I was probably the first and only African-American chief in the state of Montana," George said.

George driving in Hardin
George driving in Hardin

He says it’s not about the color of his skin. It’s simply about having a seat at the table.

"I guess you could say I am trailblazing the way. But it’s not something I necessarily focus on because I don’t see color," said George. "I hope other people don’t see color. I think it’s just a person who’s doing a job. And that’s what I’m here to do, is to do a job and fulfill what the citizens of Hardin want."

George added the department is looking for new officers and is hoping to appoint a permanent sheriff after the death of Bighorn County Sheriff Darrell King in November.

“I know they’re looking for an appointed sheriff. They did not make an appointment today, that meeting was earlier today. So they are keeping Jeramie Middlestead as the interim sheriff. Hopefully, they appoint him soon because we’re working really well together,” George said. "We’ve got a few positions open for police officers that I’m still trying to fill. So I’m doing interviews, trying to get our cars completely outfitted. So that way, by the time I get my guys hired, they’re ready to get in a car and hit the ground running."

Hardin sign
Hardin sign

He's making important decisions for the town he now calls home.

“It’s all enjoyable but my favorite part is to be able to make a difference for my staff and the community," said George. "It’s different being an officer and having someone at the top make decisions that you don’t think are the greatest decisions. But it’s good to be in that seat and be able to make good decisions. Not only for our internal staff but our community as a whole."

To read MTN's first story with George, click here.