Havre Daily News
A Wednesday meeting was called to resolve disputes between the Havre Police Department and the Hill County Sheriff's Office over booking fees, courtroom security and other issues.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said he would like to see Police Chief Mike Barthel and Sheriff Greg Szudera “put all the cards on the table.”
“I don't like to see professional law enforcers at odds in this community,” Rice said during the meeting. “I'm willing to do just about anything to resolve this rift. I have no other way to put it but rift. It's a bad thing.”
Szudera said he didn't know if he and Barthel are really at odds with each other. He said the two are experiencing “growing pains” because of a growth in crime in the area.
“Three years ago, there were 20 people in jail. Now there are 60 to 70, costing each one of us funding that seems to be in short supply,” Szudera said.
Barthel said the two are communicating and getting along, and that “it's the paper that's perpetuating it.”
The lastest clashes between the two departments began in this summer when the Sheriff's Office asked the city to pay double what it was paying for the services, from $5 a prisoner to $10. The city said it couldn't afford and increase and doubted the sheriff's department could legally charge for the services. It began booking and fingerprinting prisoners at the police station instead.
In September, Szudera said he would no longer allow county detention officers to provide security for the arraignment of city prisoners in a courtroom facility at the county jail. That forced city police to begin transporting inmates to Havre City Court and providing security there for arraignments.
Havre City Judge Joyce Perszyk said in an interview today that the current security situation is “not ideal” and “a bad idea.”
Perszyk said she would rather do arraignments at the jail because there is no interaction with the public there. She said she is worried about what prisoners might pick up or be given in the city courtroom with only one officer securing the area.
City prosecutor Tamara Barkus has stopped going to arraignments because of the shortage of security, Perszyk said.
“I am hoping they settle this soon,” Perszyk said.
Barthel has now offered to pay the increased fee to the Sheriff's Office.
In exchange for paying the increased fee, Barthel wants county detention officers to again provide courtroom security for the arraignment of city prisoners at the Hill County Detention Center. If an agreement is reached, city police officers would no longer book prisoners, transport them to the City Court for arraignments or provide courtroom security.
“I think I have enough (in the city budget) to get me through the year at $10 a head,” Rice said at Wednesday's meeting.
Barthel asked if the proposed increase would include fingerprinting and booking.
Szudera said he would agree to that “to get this thing rolling.”
“Ten dollars to continue what I was doing in the past,” Szudera said.
“The only concern I have is if she can do arraignments in 10 to 15 minutes a person. If it's 40 to 45 minutes an arraignment, that causes a problem,” he added.
The mayor said he would like to see a formal agreement reached as soon as possible, but said the issues can't really get resolved without Attorney General Mike McGrath's opinion on whether the county can legally charge the city booking fees.
The city attorney is asking for an opinion from McGrath on the issue.