One year ago, Kirk Fitch was moving from Maricopa, Ariz., where he was the assistant police chief, to Havre to be sworn in Jan. 3 as the Havre Police Department’s new police chief.
After one year under his watch, the department has added a few new programs and reworked some existing policies.
“We’ve spent this year really doing a total review of our operational policies and plans, ” Fitch said. “I’d say it’s about 90 percent complete. It’s kind of a living document, as things get changed and updated.
“This year will be training on all the policies and procedures. There’s a lot to learn. ”
Aside from changes to how officers do their job — in missing children response, vehicular pursuits and arrest procedures — Fitch has also brought changes to when, and where, officers do their job.
The new 12-hour schedule took some getting used to, but Fitch said he’s heard positive reviews from most officers.
“I think they’ve seen that it gives them more time off and it allows us to put more officers on the street at a given time, ” Fitch said. “It’s a win- win. ”
Community outreach has been another of the department’s focuses, with the new community Services officer position, held by Detective Ryan Pearson, who has helped organize several neighborhood watch programs in Havre.
Officers have also been spending more time in Havre’s schools, with new remote offices at Havre High School and on the Montana State University-Northern campus.
Fitch said the department will be putting even more emphasis on these offices, and their role in the schools, in the next year, in response to school safety concerns following the attack in Newtown, Conn. The department has already been meeting with school administrations.
“I think the biggest challenge is for safety and security for all the schools, whether it’s an increase in the formal (school resource officer) position, ” Fitch said. “We’re already in talks with the schools and the university. I believe there will be some more funding for increased... security on all campuses. ”
The department is also seeking funding for other modifications of police work, including a nearly settled deal to purchase tasers for Havre officers and a more distant hope to provide officers with mobile access to electronic records.
“We hope to keep moving forward, ” Fitch said. “A lot of that is just dependent on what’s available as far as money. ”