City Council expands police authority

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Despite concerns shared by county residents, the Missoula City Council last night approved an ordinance that will extend police authority to five miles outside city limits. The measure passed by an 8-4 vote.

Tina Sunderland, who lives near Deer Creek Road, told the council that she rarely sees criminal activity at home in East Missoula, yet when she comes to work in Missoula, she regularly spots people drinking, doing drugs and engaging in sexual activity in the parking lot outside of her downtown workplace. “We call 911 and don’t get a quick response,” she said.

The law’s passage came after months of wrangling between Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir and members of the City Council who worried the ordinance would divert resources from Missoula’s urban core to diffuse county areas.

Councilman Roy Houseman explained his "no" vote to the legislation Monday night by sharing conversations held with local business owners who expressed frustration that police take too long to arrive at calls in the urban core. “That’s why I can’t support this,” he said.

Councilman Bob Jaffe attempted to amend the ordinance. He proposed expanding jurisdiction to arrest authority 250 feet outside city limits, while allowing Missoula police officers to track down individuals suspected of committing crimes within the city up to five miles outside municipal boundaries. Jaffe also suggested providing authority to respond to offenses personally observed while en route to annexed city areas. But that didn’t fly with Muir or a majority of the council.

Police will assume expanded authority July 7.

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