Rich St. John

Recent Posts

Defending the use—and abuse—of mugshots

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An editorial in today’s Billings Gazette—in the print edition anyway; the online version for some reason is dated Feb. 3—made some good points about a bad bill. As originally introduced, House Bill 236 would have made it explicit that jail booking photos—mugshots—are public information. Current law is not quite so clear, with the result that some law enforcement agencies have refused to release mugshots. The bill was introduced by Rep. Frank Garner, a Kalispell Republican and former police chief, and it had the support of the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police. Continue Reading →

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‘All of Montana is a border town,’ civil rights panel told

Committee

A civil rights panel conducted a hearing in Billings for nearly eight hours Monday on the subject of discrimination against Native Americans, and it heard nothing more vivid than the testimony of Sarah Beaumont. For 20 minutes, punctuated by fits of sobbing, Beaumont told of working for a major company in a good union job in Billings, and of having to endure, on an almost daily basis, hateful, hurtful remarks about Native Americans. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Eye of the beholder: How fair, how good are Billings police?

Arrest

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John and longtime activist Eran Thompson agree on one thing: Billings needs more cops. They both see true community policing, which gives cops a chance to interact in a meaningful way with the people they serve, as the best way to close the divisions separating communities and police departments across the country. And good community policing takes more cops on the street than Billings has. (more…) Continue Reading →

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BPD sanctioned for release of criminal justice info

Morrison

The Montana Department of Justice has issued a sanction letter to the Billings Police Department in response to a police officer’s personal use of the state’s Criminal Justice Information Network. The letter to Police Chief Rich St. John from Jennifer Viets, CJIN program manager, gives the department 30 days to document what steps have been taken to ensure that there are no further CJIN violations. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Another reprimand issued to BPD Officer Morrison

Morrison

Billings police Officer Grant Morrison, who was reprimanded for being cited by Laurel police for keeping pot-bellied pigs at his home and who recently pleaded not guilty to a state charge of possessing unlawfully captured deer fawns, has also been reprimanded for wrongfully obtaining criminal justice information for his private use. A “corrective action form” issued to Morrison in September, and obtained by Last Best News in a public information request, said the officer was given a written reprimand after seeking information for private use from the Criminal Justice Information Network and the National Crime Information Center. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Nondescript office is home to ‘highest court on earth’

Court

Walking into two small rooms in the basement of an office building on the 700 block of Central Avenue in Billings, you’d never guess they house “the highest court in the land, on the earth.”

That’s how Cecil DeLabio described The Tacit Supreme In Law Court, of which he is The Chief Justice. He shares the office space with Ted Shinneman, who is the court’s Senior Chief Justice. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Officer in 2 fatal shootings is subject of internal probe

Morrison

A Billings police officer who was found to have committed justifiable homicide in two fatal shootings in two years is now the subject of an internal investigation by the Billings Police Department. Police Chief Rich St. John said Officer Grant Morrison is being investigated after an anonymous complainant said Morrison has routinely been violating city codes in Laurel, where he lives with his family. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Billings family says justice denied in toddler’s death

Parking lot

Four months after 21-month-old Zachary Wyles was run over and killed in a parking lot in Billings, his family thinks justice is a long way from being served. The toddler’s parents, Zachary Sr. and Aleada Wyles, recently filed a civil lawsuit against Jamie Van Atta, the woman who was driving the truck that ran over the boy, and the owners and managers of the Rose Park Plaza Apartments on the 2300 block of Avenue C, where the incident occurred. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Cops, community getting a handle on downtown Billings

Coppers

At this time of year in downtown Billings, Matt Lennick’s phone should be ringing a lot more than it has been. Lennick, a downtown resource officer who works for the Police Department but whose pay is covered by a special tax on downtown property owners, said he’s still waiting to see statistical comparisons between this year and last, but this year sure feels different. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Local cops, federal money: How much is too much?

BEAR

Eight times a year, on average, the Billings Police Department deploys its Special Weapons and Tactics team, 12 officers wearing heavy armor and toting semiautomatic and automatic weapons. In almost all cases, they are executing high-risk search warrants at the homes of suspected drug dealers, and they roll up in the BEAR, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Department’s 35,000-pound Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicle. (more…) Continue Reading →

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