Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

The Missoula Police Department is seeking a budget increase to sustain or expand a number of public safety needs, including five new patrol cars and a command position to oversee the patrol division.

But it's also seeking $15,000 to support officer wellness and $240,000 to hire a program specialist for the city's Crisis Intervention Team. Most members of the council praised the department's successes during the last fiscal year, in which it ended the year with a reserve of $937,000.

“I've been very, very impressed not only with the training you've received, but how you respond to things,” council member John Contos told a department representative. “It makes me feel very good about the amount of money that goes into the police department. This is an important part of running a city – being able to feel safe.”

The department's current budget sits at around $21 million, with more than $19 million going to personnel. It also directs $1.4 million to operating expenses such as body cameras, weapons, tasers, evidence supplies, vehicle maintenance and fuel, and bulk paper purchases.

This year, among other requests, the department is seeking $325,000 to increase its vehicle fleet – a request that was sought last year but denied. Doing so would enable the department to run efficiently when vehicles are in for service and to maintain its deployment of police officers at key hours.

“We have a newer and more efficient way of deploying officers in patrol division,” said Detective Division Capt. Mike Colyer. “It overlaps more officers to be available at the times of the day and days of the week that we've identified to have the highest call volume.”

Other department requests include $200,000 to create a command position for the patrol division and $86,000 to increase its baseline fuel costs. It's also seeking that $15,000 to help officers and their families connect with peer support and mental health specialists through a department app.

Colyer said the demands of the job place officers in a wide range of emotional calls. He painted the day of one officer that took her from a domestic violence call to elderly abuse to a suicide, not to mention a number of other things.

The wellness app helps officer access a variety of toolkits and peer support.

“It's your fellow detectives and patrol officers. They're people who have been identified as well-respected and trusted in the department and can be somebody to talk to. We bring in outside experts on this as well.”

While several council members have praised the police department for its work, Council member Daniel Carlino – a vocal opponent of police and security funding – questioned the department's FY '23 budget requests and its need for more money.

“Criminology studies have proven that increasing the police budget doesn't necessarily lower crime in town,” Carlino told Capt. Colyer. “This is already the biggest budget in Missoula's budget. Why can't the Missoula Police Department use their current budget to accommodate these requests and make cuts to the department?”

Colyer said the department has no room to make such cuts.

“If you want to move the needle on that, you'd move it through cutting personnel,” he said. “We're at or below staffing on personnel anyway. Cutting more to us isn't the solution.”