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Fort Benton Police Department faces uncertain future

Fort Benton Police
Posted at 7:33 AM, Mar 19, 2024

FORT BENTON — The Fort Benton Police Department only has three full time officers, but that will be changing at the end of March with the resignation of Officer Alvalle.

The small police force already had a quick turnover rate. Officers are constantly on call and taking extra shifts to keep the city safe.

“It affects your health after a while of that type of scheduling,” said Adam Jacques, Fort Benton’s Chief of Police.

This led to Chief Jacques stepping down to join the Chouteau County Sheriff’s department.

“The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer and the county police department works in the city limits only,” Chief Jacques said, “So what I'm going to be doing is going over there. I'm taking my dog, Benny, as well. So we'll still have the canine here in Fort Benton in Chouteau County. So immediately, right away, I'll just be a road deputy.”

Jacques said in a Facebook post:

I will be accepting a position with the Chouteau County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Burdick has announced his plans to retire this summer, which creates leadership opportunities at the sheriffs office and yes the most important thing “Benny” will be coming along and going straight to patrol and will remain a huge part of Fort Benton and Chouteau County.

"Benny" is the K-9 that the police department recently acquired (details).

Jacques’ resignation was not the first or the last for the department. Come April 20th, there will be no current police officers in Fort Benton. According to the mayor, this was not completely out of the blue, however, it did occur sooner than expected.

“We were truly blessed to have four years of stability on that police force,” said Lanny Walker, Mayor of Fort Benton, “And I can't believe it was going to last forever.”

Within the next month, the city will need to find and recruit new officers, or, as Chief Jacques suggested and shared on the Police Department’s Facebook page, contract services from the Sheriff’s department.

“I just don't believe that it's a battle that we will win if we try to recruit at this time with how tough it is,” Chief Jacques said.

Jacques believes contracting to the Sheriff’s department would lead to significant savings for the city, and the citizens of Fort Benton would be receiving the same services for less money. At Monday’s city council meeting, the mayor assigned the problem to the city’s police commission. They will decide what the best course of action is for the city, and it will be voted on by the council at a later meeting.

“I like to keep an open mind and I'm going to just go by what I think is best for the people,” Mayor Walker said.

While the future of Fort Benton’s law enforcement is still unknown, the city is going to make sure they do what they can to keep the people safe, whether the uniform is blue or brown.