We told you this week the contract between Hardin, Montana and American Private Police Force gave the shady security contractor the chance to take over the town’s policing needs, in addition to running Hardin’s prison. It appears to have been this potential law enforcement responsibility that led APPF to roll into town late last month in three Mercedes SUVs bearing the words “City of Hardin Police Department,” setting off a panic that soon spread far beyond Hardin.
Now that the APPF deal seems to have been on hold, you’d think local officials might now be wary of doing anything that might re-open the police force issue. But yesterday, Big Horn County commissioners nonetheless went ahead and voted to allow the city to create its own police department - though only after making assurances that APPF won’t get the job.
Hardin has been trying to create its own force for several years, which would allow it to no longer rely on the county sheriff’s office for law enforcement. Indeed, the flirtation with APPF as a potential law enforcement provider appears to have been connected to this long-standing deconsolidation effort.
For a while, that seemed likely to derail the entire project. As Becky Convery, the Hardin former attorney, who is still working with the city on the police force issue, put it to commissioners yesterday: “Somehow we went down this other path that sort of sidetracked everything.”
Now deconsolidation is back on. But as the Billings Gazette puts it:
It’s not clear where the city will get the estimated $1 million a year it will cost to run a department with a police chief and seven officers.
Hmmm…we hear there’s a California-based private contractor with a long record of criminal fraud and a history of alcoholism who’ll do it on the cheap.