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Havre officer honored as victim advocate

Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

Havre Police Department Detective Sgt. Jason Barkus, right, holds the plaque that he received Thursday afternoon in the Havre-Hill County Library from Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock for "outstanding assistance and advocacy for victims of crime." After the award presentation by Bullock, Barkus was also recognized by his coworkers with the Officer of the Year Award, for which he received a ribbon to wear on his uniform. Havre Assistant Chief of Police Gabe Matosich said Barkus won Officer of the Year at the first-ever HPD officers' awards ceremony recently.

Friends, family and coworkers of a Havre police officer successfully kept months of work and planning hidden from him, surprising Detective Sgt. Jason Barkus Thursday when state Attorney General Steve Bullock came to town to honor Barkus for his work on the Havre Sexual Abuse Response Team.

"I am truly honored to present you with the Outstanding Victim Advocate Award, " Bullock said when he presented Barkus with the award.

"This is a complete surprise to me, and thank you to everyone for coming, " Barkus said to the crowd of relatives, friends and coworkers in the Havre-Hill County Library, adding that the award gives him "the feeling that I do a good job, and I appreciate that. I couldn't do it without all of you. "

Barkus was nominated by Michele Holden and Stacey Carrigan, victim-witness advocates with District IV Human Resources Development Council Domestic Abuse program for his work investigating rape, sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

"Sergeant Barkus works with these victims with compassion, empathy, understanding, concern, and respect regardless of age, race, or gender, " Bullock read from the nomination submitted by Holden and Carrigan. "His understanding benefits our victims by providing them with a positive interaction with law enforcement and by helping them bring their offenders to justice. "

Bullock said he has presented seven of the victim advocate awards since taking office, and he is honored to recognize people who do the work to make a difference in their community.

"Detective Sergeant Barkus, you do incredibly important work, and by all accounts you do it extraordinarily well …, " Bullock said. "This is often the case: people who work in this area don't get recognition of the lives that you change, in the way that you are a true champion for the victims. "

He told the audience that since becoming a Havre officer in 2006, Barkus has spearheaded the police department's sex crime investigations, serving as the liaison with HRDC, and supervising the family violence investigations. Barkus has continually improved his skills, Bullock said, taking additional training in child forensic interview, advanced domestic violence response, child advocacy and understanding the complexities of sexual abuse cases.

After the ceremony, Havre Police Chief Kirk Fitch said Barkus is passing that knowledge on, mentoring a fellow Havre officer on the secrets of successfully investigating those kind of cases.

"They are probably one of the most complicated criminal investigations to do, and it's a huge balancing act, protecting the victims of the crimes and protecting the rights of the accused at the same time, " he said.

Fitch said Barkus is thorough and dedicated, making sure the investigations are handled correctly from the very start.

"This is great, that he puts forth that effort, has excelled in that area, has wanted to take the extra training, and it has all come to fruition with the success in cases …, " he said, adding, "That is a reflection that he is the officer of the year as well. "

Barkus said he had no idea his friends, family and coworkers had successfully nominated him and had set up Thursday's award ceremony.

"It was quite a shock, " Barkus said after the presentation. "It's a pretty big honor to be given that (award) and to have Attorney General Steve Bullock present it …. "

"I guess it makes you feel like you make a difference, and that's the important thing, " Barkus said.


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