Written by John Plestina
The future of the 14-year-old cross deputization law enforcement agreement between the city of Wolf Point and the Fort Peck Tribes might be in jeopardy following a decision by the tribes’ executive board not to renew the cross deputization of one city officer.
The tribal decision involves just one officer on the seven-member department and relates to an unspecified alleged incident that is believed to have occurred 17 months ago.
The Wolf Point City Council addressed the matter during the monthly meeting, Monday, Dec. 15, and will schedule a meeting of the city’s Police and Animal Control Committee as soon as possible to address the issue. Representatives of the Fort Peck Tribes will be invited.
FPTDLJ Capt. Jim Summers called Police Chief Jeff Harada Nov. 12 to inform him that the executive board denied WPPD Officer Joey Olson’s application for renewal of cross deputization.
Since that time, the WPPD has had to request assistance from tribal officers where arrests of tribal members were necessary or tickets were issued while Olson was a sole WPPD officer on duty. For now, Olson cannot sign a tribal ticket.
Harada said Summers told him a complaint had been filed by a tribal member. He said he asked Summers to request that the complainant speak to him but that has not happened.
Harada said in a written report he presented to the council, Monday, Dec. 15, that he told Summers if one Wolf Point officer would not be approved for cross deputization, he would terminate the agreement.
“I’d like it to be fair but I don’t want to go backwards,” councilman Rollie Paulson said.
Harada also wrote in the report that tribal councilman Rick Kirn called him Nov. 14 and discussed the necessity of maintaining the cross deputization agreement.
The agreement grants authority to city, tribal and the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office deputies to arrest tribal and non-tribal individuals. At this juncture, all sworn officers of the WPPD have that authority except Olson.
Harada said the tribes have not given a specific reason for not approving Olson, but it might stem from a complaint by a tribal member of an alleged incident during the 2013 Wild Horse Stampede.
Harada said Olson is an outstanding police officer. He said the complaint is unfounded.
“They [Tribes] have not given me written notice of the revocation of Officer Olson or the reason for the complaint,” Harada said.
The city has approved all tribal officers for cross deputization.
Mayor Chris Dschaak said a special meeting of the Police and Animal Control Committee could result in the council coming up with a decision and resolution during the next scheduled meeting Monday, Jan. 19.
Harada said if the cross deputization agreement between the city and tribes is discontinued, municipal officers would have the authority to detain but not arrest tribal members. It would be necessary for FPTDLJ officers to make the arrests and city officers would have to assist tribal officers where they might respond to an incident involving a non-tribal person.
Written by John Plestina
A recent announcement of grant funding to the Wolf Point School District for early childhood education has increased the likelihood that the preschool program will return for Wolf Point children.
In May, the school board voted 4-1 to eliminate the preschool program for the school year that began in August and approved $296,309 in additional cuts, including teachers and other jobs. The cuts were in response to financial difficulties the school district has faced, voter rejection of two levies and substantial legal fees the district incurred from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that resulted in mandated redistricting before trustees are elected next year necessitated the cuts.
Eliminating the preschool program, which is largely funded by federal Title VII funds, saved the district annual costs of about $120,000.
Board chairman Martin DeWitt voted against cutting the preschool program.
Gov. Steve Bullock and state school superintendent Denise Juneau announced, Wednesday, Dec. 10, that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded Montana a $10 million-a-year competitive federal preschool development grant that would expand access to high-quality early childhood education in Wolf Point and 15 other school districts statewide that have demonstrated the need. None of the other communities are in northeastern Montana. The grant can be renewed for up to four years, for a maximum of $40 million awarded.
The grant provides support for school districts to improve professional and program development, including scholarships for early childhood educators.
Superintendent Joe Paine said he didn’t know how much the district would receive.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen during this school year,” he said.
“It will definitely benefit Wolf Point if the board chooses to reinstate preschool,” Paine said. “It was a very tough decision not to reinstate preschool this year.”
“We are a school that participates in the Montana Striving Readers grant project,” Paine said.
The Montana Striving Reader’s Project is intended to improve literacy for all students and to provide support systems for school districts and preschool programs.
The grant will build on successful early literacy programs statewide. The programs will serve as models and mentors for new programs that are added over the course of the grant. The Office of Public Instruction and the Department of Health and Human Services will provide technical assistance to school districts.
The grant complements Bullock’s Early Edge initiative, which aims to make voluntary, publicly funded, high-quality early childhood education for four-year-olds available throughout Montana. In his budget, Bullock requested $37 million to fund the initiative.
Bullock proposed the “Early Edge” program early this year to fund early-childhood education statewide. Bullock plans to submit the proposal to the 2015 Legislature.
Bullock’s proposal calls for expanding access to pre-kindergarten programs among low-income families, improving standards for early-childhood education providers, strengthening the early-childhood workforce and preparing all children for kindergarten.
Montana is currently one of eight states without a publicly funded pre-kindergarten option for four-year-olds.
Written by John Plestina
‘Johnny O, Gunslinger’
This photo of John Olson, cocked and loaded as an Old West gunfighter, was taken in Firemen’s Park during Stampede 2012. (Submitted photo)
A new group that wants to stage Old West gunfight reenactments during the Wild Horse Stampede and Wolf Point Centennial Celebration, and could become “guns for hire” throughout the year, is seeking a few good “gunslingers.”
Men and women are wanted.
John “Johnny O” Olson said there are about 10 people who have signed up for the group so far.
“I want to get at least 30 people,” he said.
Olson said the group could perform year round, which gunfight reenactment groups do elsewhere.
Olson, who is from Wolf Point, moved to Albuquerque, N.M., after he graduated from Wolf Point High School and lived there about five years. It was in Albuquerque that Olson met other people who were involved with a gunfight reenactment group and he joined the group, learning his trade.
Now, decades later, Olson wants to put that trade to use on the streets of Wolf Point.
About two weeks after the 2014 Stampede, Olson and Dan Hutchinson brought a proposal to the Wolf Point Centennial Committee to stage one or more gunfights on downtown streets as a sanctioned event of the Centennial Celebration, which will be during the 2015 Wild Horse Stampede in July.
It has not been determined where the gunfight will take place or which day of Stampede it would happen. In the parade route, after all the horses have passed, was discussed as a possibility.
The Centennial Committee, Olson and Hutchinson also discussed having a public hanging, possibly as part of a period reenactment. It has not been determined who would be hung.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer gunslinger should contact Olson at 653-1057 or 650-5247.
For additional information about the Centennial Celebration, contact Linda Twitchell at 650-8748 [call or text] or by email at
Written by Herald-News
Alexis Baker (left) and Laci Ackerman decorate a window in The Herald-News office. The sixth-graders are members of the Junior Optimists Club at Northside Elementary School. (Photo by John Plestina)
Written by Herald-News
Chris Will sells her goods at the Wolf Point Optimists Club’s annual bazaar in the Wolf Point High School gym, Saturday, Dec. 6. (Photo by John Plestina)