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Hardin mayor hopeful a liability agreement will restore city police dispatch service with Big Horn County Sheriff

Posted at 10:01 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 16:24:02-04

HARDIN — After a week with no dispatching services for the Hardin Police Department, the city's mayor said he's hopeful a liability agreement will be signed on Wednesday and restore the city's police dispatch services which are provided by the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office.

"We haven't stopped our services, we just aren't getting dispatched," said Hardin Mayor Joe Purcell on Tuesday.

Hardin Mayor Joe Purcell speaks with MTN News on Tuesday via video call.

Hardin has had its four-member police department operational since the start of the year, but Purcell said they ran into a big problem on March 8, when Big Horn County Attorney Jay Harris told the county sheriff's office to stop providing dispatching services to the Hardin Police Department.

Purcell said the dispatch service was stopped due to alleged poor performance by city employees and the county didn't want to be held liable for any mistakes made by city officers or staff.

"Basically, it's administrative-type stuff and employee-type performance that they are claiming. We're investigating. That isn't a direct link to anything to do with dispatch. The impression we get is your officer did bad so we're taking this benefit away from you. And they are not linked together," Purcell said.

The exterior of the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office in Hardin.

Purcell said there's an internal investigation underway into the allegations of poor performance made by Big Horn County.

At a Hardin City Council meeting on Tuesday night, a man said response times in Hardin from law enforcement have improved since the city cops started up at the beginning of the year.

"You know what? When you call the city police, they show up. You call the sheriffs, you'll wait hours," the man said.

A man gives a public comment, supporting the Hardin Police Department, at a Hardin City Council meeting on March 15.

The city of Hardin doesn't yet have a formal agreement with Big Horn County Sheriff's for dispatching services. The holdup is that the agreement has to be approved by the county's dispatch board, which has a meeting scheduled for March 22.

In the mean time, Purcell said he hopes an indemnity clause will be signed on Wednesday, which will restore dispatch services for Hardin and won't hold the sheriff's office liable for decisions made by city police officers.

"I know part of their concern was because of officer performance would put them at a liability. Which my attorney couldn't figure out what that link was, but that was part of their claim as well," Purcell said.

During the week with no dispatching services, Purcell said Hardin officers didn't have the days off. Instead, they were out on the streets looking for speeders and illegal parking.

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